Uncle Sam's quadrennial political hiatus

The United States is well into its quadrennial political hiatus. It's as though Uncle Sam had taken off his tall hat, changed from his long coat and trousers to ''cutoffs,'' and begun to toss a brightly colored beach ball.

Oh, Americans know the others are out there watching them play volleyball with the presidency. And the others - the so-called free world, third world, and communist-bloc nations - are not going to let the US forget its foreign obligations and challenges for a minute.

Uncle Sam still has at least half an eye on Central America, and he knows that the Middle East, the arms race, and a dozen other situations are waiting to be picked up again after Nov. 6.

But for now, the rest of the world can pretty much shift for itself while Americans go about the seriocomic process of deciding whom they will make ''the most powerful leader in the world'' for the next four years.

This three-month self-absorption can actually result in a fresh US perspective on world affairs, especially if there is some form of campaign debate on foreign policy.

Meanwhile, the planet can manage to cope while Americans stage their political Super Bowl. Some situations might even be improved by initiatives other than Washington's.

And when Uncle Sam once more dons his formal togs and strides back onto the world stage, his character will be more sharply defined and his intentions clearer.

A vacation, a change of pace, a bit of exercise - even with a serious underlying purpose - can be quite restorative. And that reminds us....

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