The big news around the Capitol Hill Club last night was that George Bush, the vice president of the United States, carries his own checkbook. He even writes his own checks.
As a gaggle of surprised guests and reporters gaped, Bush nonchalantly began scribbling during a small reception to raise money for the Fund for a Representative Congress, a political action committee recently set up to aid black Republican congressional candidates.
"Are you writing a check?" asked one reporter.
"Yes, of course," he said as flashes exploded from all corners of the room. "I really didn't expect to do it in front of all these cameras, but this is a fund-raiser and we all have to do our thing. Next you'll be asking me how much it's for."
"Nevermind," said the vice president, finishing up.
It was for $500. It covered the price of admission for him and Barbara Bush.
Bush was one of about 100 guests who paid $250 to nibble eggrolls, chicken wings and carrot sticks and lend support to the six Republican candidates trying to gain seats in the House next fall. About $25,000 was raised.
But for his $500, Bush didn't get so much as a Ritz cracker with a slab of cheddar.
"We're moving past that food table awfully fast," he said while being rushed to the podium.
"We're watching your diet for you," he was told by jazz legend Lionel Hampton, a diehard Republican.
The general theme of the evening seemed to be "getting better." Any misgivings about the administration's policies towards blacks were carefully referred to as "insensitivities"--never mistakes.
"No, I can't say Reagan has done more for blacks than Carter. I never overstate anything," said Samuel Jackson, founder of the prestigous Council of 100, parent of the PAC. "But things are improving all the time . . . If we can get the word out, we should be able to go from 10 percent of the black vote to about 15 or 20 by 1984."
"Most of the blacks are Democrats--that's why they believe all that bad stuff," concluded Lionel Hampton. "The Democratic machine sends out all that propaganda to keep them in the fold."
Bush talked about the "doom and gloom" passing and remarked several times that he believed the recession to be over. "Things are not good in every catergory," he said, "but they're clearly improving."
As in any reception where a Very Important Politician puts in a few moments of face time, the entire evening seemed to center around The Arrival and The Departure. Security dogs sniffed the room frantically before guests arrived and everyone was required to walk through a metal detector--a sign of prestige at any Washington event.
The press was initially supposed to be roped off. But Lester Kinsolving, the gadfly of the Washington press corps, would hear none of it.
"I just spent three days with the Democrats in Philadelphia and they treated us like human beings," he said rather loudly. "I don't see why the Republicans insist on treating us like animals."
And so they didn't.