Rep. Paul McCloskey (R. Calif.) put down his fork and gestured across the noisy dinner party table toward George Bush, former CIA director and current candidate (though unannouced) for the Republican Party's presidential nomination.
"George is the only presidential candidate they haven't given Secret Service protection to," he quipped. "You have to be a serious candidate. I never got it either.
"George is the only Republican candidate who's craggy enough for New Hampshire," he went on. "You have to look like one of the great stone faces. . . .
"McCloskey, will you shut up," Bush interjected, putting an end to the discourse.
In another conversation two people away, Rep. Joel Pritchard (R. Wash.) announced, "Our themeis-throw the rascal in."
Bush shook his head. "We're trying to get McCloskey offset by Pritchard. He's sane."
Bush glanced up at a friend walking by. "Make sure you don't talk too long," Bush said with a grin to this man. "I've got a lot to say."
The banter continued most of last evening at the $250-a-head fundraiser that Henry Catto, former chief of protocol, and his wife Jessice gave for presidential candidate Bush-who has spent much time trekking across the country talking to people and putting together a campaign organization. He is to annouce officially in a week.
"Wherever I got, people ask, 'What are you? A moderate, a conservative, a liberal? How do you fit in?'" Bush said during his remarks to some 200 people who gathered for dinner under a yellow striped tent next to the Cattos' house in McLean. "The people here tonight transcend these labels. And I think that's good. I want to be a national candidate."
Then he added, "McCloskey demonstrates just how broad-based this campaign is."
The remark brought a roar of laughter but McCloskey soberly underscored it later.
"If you had to look for someone who could inspire confidence now, it would be (Sen. Howard) Baker or Bush," he said. "You need someone not tainted by the past. With no disrespect for Baker or any of the other candidates, I'm supporting Bush all the way."
Among Bush's other supporters, from all sections and passions of the Republican Party, were Pritchard, Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt of Arkansas, Rep. Barber Conable of New York. Conable's the ranking minority member of the House Ways and Means Committee and former "seatmate" of Bush when he was a representative on that committee.
Each was introduced enthusiastically by Bush, as if he were calling member sof the football team onto the field. Guests responded with applause and a hearty chorus of 'yeahs!' for each name.
Also there were former Pennsylvania Sen. Hugh Scott, and former Maryland Sen. J. Glenn Beall, former Rep. Henry Smith ("looking at least like a Senator" one of his former colleagues quipped), and former attorney general Richard Kleindeinst.
Bush doesn't like to be labeled but is generally thought of as a moderate Republican, (at least compared with other ultra conservative Republicans like Reagan and Illinois Rep. Phil Crane who are running for the presidential nomination).
Bush has already begun setting up his organization with a variety of people, some of whom held top spots in past Ford, Wallace and Reagan campaigns. He is the first candidate seeking the nomination to qualify for federal matching campaign funds. Last night's dinner is expected to bring in about $70,000 (including matching funds) according to Bush press secretary Peter Teeley.
"I have never spent $500 in my life for a dinner until tonight," said one lawyer there with his wife. "I don't think Bush will make it, but he's the kind of guy you'd be proud to put up. He's intelligent and he's got some sense. Some of the other Republicans are Neanderthal." CAPTION: Picture, Mrs. Lowe Bacon, left, and Barbara and George Bush, By Joe Heiberger-The Washington Post