It was Vice President George Bush they wanted at the OAS dinner Wednesday night and George Bush they got. He was mobbed as soon as he walked in the door, and got more attention than Secretary of State Alexander Haig (who disappeared into the crowd quickly), certainly more than Attorney General William French Smith and definitely more than Secretary of the Interior James Watt, who spent most of his time with his back to an out-of-the-way wall.

"I think there's some symbolism in that," said American University President Richard Berendzen.

Bush had spent the day at the Naval Academy giving rip-roaring commencement speech, and was a few minutes late to the OAS. By that time, the guest, minutes late to the OAS. By that time, the guests, including most of the OAS ambassadors, already had been through the receiving line. But no matter. They were eager to do it again.

"How are you?" Bush cried upon seeing Jamaican ambassador Keith Johnson.

"Better for seeing you, sir," the ambassador replied.

The receiving line stretched around the humid atrium. Ice clinked into glasses, waiters made the rounds carrying trays laden with lined Perrier.

"Good to see you, good to see you, good to see you," Bush said to one and all who came up to pump his hand.

He turned to the phalanx of photographers behind him. "Good to see you," he said. They were -- click -- glad to see him -- click, click -- too.

The OAS gives a party for the vice president every year, but this one was marked by noticeable good will and unusually high hopes.

"I have a very, very good impression of your secretary of state," said Christian Zimmerman, the representative of Chile and Argentina on the Board of the Inter-American Development Bank. "I think he is wonderful."

Bush, meanwhile, was still making new friends.

"i am the new ambassador from El Salvador," said Ernesto Rivas Gallont. "Good to see you," Bush exclaimed. "Good luck to you," he added.

All around the room, women and men were busy bussing one another's cheeks. This is politely done by pursing one's lips and not coming close enough to ruin anyone's makeup.

"This is the kissingest embassy in the world," a French photographer observed as the reception wore on and the guests began to pull at their collars just a bit. "They have the French beat by a mile."

Helga Orfila, wearing think diamond earrings that hung down just past her jaw, did her share, as did Barbara Walters, who arrived with investor Sy Weintraub and busied herself in enthusiastic conservation with the Saudi ambassador, among others.

"I'm an investor in everything," said Weintraub. "Everything that makes money."

Haig, tanned and perspiring slightly, stood chatting with outgoing Italian ambassador Paolo Cedronio and Emilio Savorgnan, the Italian ambassador to the OAS, all of them smoking cigarettes. Haig carrying his tucked between his middle and ring fingers.

The vice president spotted the secretary of state, and they approached one another. Heads turned, waiting to catch what revelations might fall from such august lips.

"I recommend the martinis on the rocks," Bush told him. "They're very good." The POW Powwow

Though he was invited, president Ronald Reagan couldn't make it to the eighth annual reunion of the 4the Allied POW Wing at the Shoreham the other night. But the president was riding the range out in California, of course, and in his stead the former POWs got Lyn Nofziger and a slide show from Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot.

Nofziger showered so much praise on the president it seemed like the campaign all over again. "He knows how to pace himself, he knows how to delegate . . . Lest any of you wonder," Nofziger said enthusiastically, "I expect, in fact I am confident, that this president will run for reelection in 1984." The audience cheered.

Still, the former POW's missed the president. "I'm sure he's just tired," said lawyer George Day of Reagan's absence. "It's a disappointment, sure. We had an understanding 18 months ago that if he won the election, he'd be here. But I'm certain that he's just overtaxed."

Nofziger told the crowd of his own great admiration for Richard Nixon, who'd sent a message of good cheer to the men. Nofziger also invited any former POWs interested in running for office to come around and see him at the White House. "We could use more of your kind of people here in Washington," he said. "You know, if we could get just 26 more people in the House of Representatives . . ."

But Perot was the real star of the evening, revered as he is for having pulled off a daring rescue mission that freed two of his employes from a Tehran prison shortly before the American embassy was taken.

The former POWs have known him since he tried to send them a plane load of Christmas presents during their captivity at the "Hanoi Hilton." The presents were refused by the North Vietnamese, but the Legend of Perot was born.

Perot was introduced as "a man who's done more for this group than anyone else. We love you."

Perot regaled them for more than an hour with the hostage rescue.

"We were working for the mens' release through the courts," Perot said, "but this was in a country where -- get this -- it is customary to arrest the lawyer as well as the client."

The audience aplauded.

"I first told this story in a speech in California," Perot said, "and the audience included Wiliam French Smith. All of the other businessmen in the room, his friends, stood up and cheered at the thought." The Sport of Gentlemen

"Polo," the saying goes, "is the sport of gangsters played by gentlemen, and the sport of gentlemen played by gangsters." Most of the sporting guests at the first annual Polo Ball at the OAS last week thought that line was quite amusing. (No one would admit to being a gangster.)

"Years ago, only the wealthy could pay polo," said Louis A. Traxel, a lawyer and retired polo champ himself, "but now we have young lawyers and stockbrokers, and even some schoolteachers."

Still, most of the people who'd shelled out time and money for the dinner were veterans of the international polo circuit, and as such were dripping with serious jewelry and good connections.

"I'm here to see all my friends from Palm Beach," said a well-tanned blond woman dressed in sequins and white. In the darkened atrium, the fountain dripped and splashed and moistened sandal-shod toes.

The ball and a polo match held in Potomac the next day were organized by the Christian Zimmermans, the Joseph Muldoons and the Ami Shinitzkys to benefit the Paralysis Cure Research Foundation and the Inter-American Very Special Arts Festival and Symposium. The eight players for the match were the very best, the cream of the international crop.

They weren't hard to spot, as they tended to cluster in small groups, often accompanied by glamorous woman. They also drank no alcohol.

An acclaimed British player, Julian Hipwood, when he's not in South America and Palm Beach, plays polo with Prince Charles. h

And as a polo film produced by Rolex shown after dinner made clear, all polo players look a little like Prince Charles.