Convention Diary: For some folks it's the 100-Grand Old Party

SNATCHES of conversation heard on the convention floor during an interminable speech by the Texas Senator, Phil Gramm:

'Darling you must be the most beautiful animal here tonight. That's just such a fabulous tan.' (One no-longer-so-young woman delegate to another, both with gold head-bands).

'No, no. I'm with BMW now. Actually, I'm the most senior American in BMW'. (Male delegate boasting).

'Back a bit. No, back a bit. That's it. No, she won't mind. Go on. Gooood.' Click. (Delegate forcing another to pose for a picture slap in front of Barbara Bush sitting in front row grandstand seats to hear Mr Gramm).

'No shi-it] No shi-it]' (One male delegate when assured that the self-consciously handsome man behind Mrs Bush really is Hollywood hunk Bruce Willis).

Well, they call it the Grand Old Party. For some it's a hundred grand. That's how much money you are expected to contribute to the Republicans' campaign for membership of the very exclusive Team 100 Club. These terribly rich people get the best treatment this week, including plush suites high above the throng on the floor, with leather sofas and deep white carpets. Fund-raisers are a bit disappointed with the turn- out, though. In 1988, Team 100 had a membership of 250. This year it has slipped to 180. Is that the recession or George Bush?

For the slightly less wealthy, there are plenty of other chances to shell out for the cause. The rewards vary from access to the convention itself - a modest dollars 2,500 ( pounds 1,300) is enough for two passes - to invitations to the balls and receptions around town. How about paying dollars 15,000 to attend a reception for former president Gerald Ford or dollars 25,000 for your own table at a Republican Governors' Association dinner tonight?

It is open season on the media among Republicans this week, who - surprise - hold reporters responsible for the popularity crash facing Mr Bush. New buttons sported by delegates offer such thoughts as: 'Media Puke '92'. Journalists are taking it on the chin, or rather the chest. T- shirts on sale in the press hall carry the message: 'It's all my fault . . . I'm from the media.

'It's a raid]', somebody yelled as the police officer approached the knot of people jamming the hallway through the media centre. There was trading going on, but not in anything toxic. The growing craze is for collecting lapel pins used to identify staff of different news organisations. 'I'm desperate for ABC. Has anyone got ABC?' gasped the officer, offering to trade with his shiniest Houston Police Department pin.

Among the hyperbole and simple mistruths about the wonder of 12 years under Reagan and Bush, Senator Gramm came up with surely the most absurd exaggeration so far. 'In any hut, in any village on the planet,' he intoned, 'one world leader is loved, honoured and admired above all others. Spoken in a thousand dialects, his name is George Bush.'

At his age you would think he'd know better. Ronnie has been caught misquoting Abraham Lincoln in his Monday night address. The supposed Lincoln passage, which began, 'You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong,' was apparently actually uttered by a Rev William Boetker from Pennsylvania. A spokeswoman for Mr Reagan said it was not really his fault; he had found the line, attributed to Lincoln, in a handbook of quotes.

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