Several hundred people from the Republican National Committee seemed to be putting as much distance as possible between themselves and the events of 10 years ago, as they kicked off their two-day spring meeting by toasting each other and their party last night in the Lincoln Room of the Washington Hilton.

The ebullient crowd that gathered around a splashing fountain ignored the irony of the timing and munched and chattered as waiters carried in mounds of hot hors d'oeuvres and piles of fresh fruit. RNC committee members, congressional candidates, lobbyists and hangers-on, in business suits and summer dresses with American flag pins everywhere, greeted old friends and discussed the meeting agenda.

"You know, I just don't think anyone even thought about the timing of this meeting," said Trudy McDonald, committeewoman from California. "It's just always been the third week of June. So it's business as usual for us."

"Tacky. It's just tacky time," said Edith Holm, committeewoman from Alaska and regional vice chairman of the 13 western states, commenting on the celebrations scattered around town.

"This party paid a terrible price for Watergate, and now we've been vindicated, because not one of us did anything immoral, illegal or fattening. The old bumpersticker still holds true--'Nobody drowned at Watergate.' You'll never see a Chappaquiddick party," Holm said, between kisses and hugs from old friends and new staffers.