"Washington. I love this city. It's an exciting city, things change so rapidly. As I was telling my waiter . . ."


"Cyrus Vance."


"He was upset because they wanted him to share his tips with the busboy . . . "

Another pause.

"Bert Lance."

Even more applause.

Bob Hope, longtime trouper and friend of Washington powers, dumped his war chest of political jokes yesterday before an audience of more than 350 at a National Press Club luncheon and reception. He spared none of the presidential candidates.

"The farmers are very happy," said Hope of the politicians' cross-country speechmaking. "It's good for the crops."

Hope, whose Kennedy Center show co-starring Suzanne Somers opens tomorrow, noted, "I've been asked by all the candidates to appear with them, but I told them I couldn't. I helped all of them financially. You never can tell who's going to get in.

"Kennedy looks a little stronger," he said."He had leather poisoning for a while. I think they got his foot out of his mouth."

President Carter "will get his teeth buffed" and do well in the campaign, predicted Hope. And Carter's daughter, Amy, "is the smartest kid in her class," he quipped. "she's the only one who can spell Chappaquiddick."

Hope complimented Ronald Reagan on a Las Vegas gig he once saw the apparent Republican nominee perform and added, "I hope something happens to him this time, 'cuz I don't think his hair can stay that color much longer."

Hope suggested that Reagan select Charlton Heston as his running mate: "We need a miracle." And for ambassador to Iran, Don Rickles: "I can just see him talking to the ayatollah: 'Look, hockey puck, you need a new flea collar.'"

Offering sympathy to John Connally, who spent $10 million to win only one convention delegate, Hope said, "That's frustrating for a cattleman. He can't even breed her."

Hope also broached the issues of inflation: "In New York I ordered a $20 steak and the air conditioning blew it off the plate." And nuclear power: $2"I'd like a little of it off the first tee." And he offered a serious thought on atomic power: "If the geniuses want nuclear power, we've got to go along with them."

Absent were the golf cap and putter that accompanied Hope on endless overseas USO missions, but Hope nonetheless soon turned his attention from politics to golf.

When he plays with Gerald Ford in Palm Springs, he said, curious onlookers often surround the pair. "Of course, you know how crowds gather at an accident. I never look at his score, I just look back at the wounded."

Yet Ford remains Hope's favorite golf partner. "He's a fast pay. It's always a pleasure to get a little back from the government."

Politicians, however, were not Hope's only targets. The handicaps of his West Coast show biz cronies also fell under attack:

Sammy Davis Jr: "He hits a nice ball, about 70 yards. His jewelry goes about 110."

Jimmy Stewart, who according to Hope is a bit slow off the tee: "He starts in our tournament and ends in Andy Williams.'"

And Dean Martin: "He plays every year, and if he wins anything, we tell him."

The 77-year-old Hope, who was accompanied by his wife, Dolores, drew a parallel between Washington and Hollywood. "Politics is like show business," he said. "One day you're drinking the wine, and the next day you're picking the grapes."