HOUSTON -- Let me sum up the mood of the Republican convention:
If Woody Allen shows his face here, they're going to kick the living daylights out of him.
No far-out, twisted, unnatural, Hollywood behavior will be tolerated here.
And under far-out, twisted, unnatural, Hollywood behavior, I include living together before marriage or French kissing before the fifth date.
What's normal behavior to the Republicans? Pat Boone is normal behavior.
Pat Boone takes the stage in front of a gigantic American flag. He would look like George S. Patton, if George S. Patton had worn white bucks.
"We're here to re-elect the Living God as our source of life," Boone tells the crowd at the "God and Country" rally across from the Astrodome. "And unless we do that as a people, it doesn't matter a whole lot who we elect as president!"
Whoa. Hold on. Let's not get carried away here. This is still a political convention. Which the next speaker, Rev. Doug Stringer of Houston, points out.
"We thank God for a president and vice president not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ!" he says.
"And we pray for the media!"
"Lord Jesus, let them see the truth!"
"Now let's give a handclap for Jesus!"
Dan Quayle, accompanied by his wife, Marilyn, and their children, Tucker, Corinne and Benjamin, take the stage.
The Quayles rarely display their children in public, but this is the kind of event you want to come to with your family. As the women in the back of the crowd nursing babies could tell you.
Some members of the crowd are wearing buttons that say: "Dan Is Right. Murphy's A Tramp." And on one car window in a nearby parking lot is the sign: "No Queers or Baby Killing Feminazis."
Copies of a newspaper called the Christian American are being handed out. The front page headline is "FEMINIST WAR ON AMERICA." On another page is the headline: "Clinton Courts Homosexuals."
"It is a pleasure," Dan Quayle tells the crowd, "to be with people who are the real America."
This is the Religious Right, a group that may make up from 15-20 percent of the Republican Party, and the Radical Right, which may make up another 5 percent.
Neither group is overly fond of George Bush, but both will put up with him this year for two reasons:
1. He is not Bill Clinton.
2. He has Dan Quayle as his vice president.
Quayle may be a drag on the ticket in certain public opinion polls (then again Bush is a drag on the ticket in certain public opinion polls), but Quayle does fine with these "real" folks.
Up on stage, Quayle looks no different than he did four years ago. Except around the eyes, his face still has the unlined sleakness of a baby porpoise.
"I don't care what the media say," he says. "I don't care what my critics say. I will never back down from talking about traditional values.
"The elites laughed at the reference to Murphy Brown and they sneered at my defense of traditional values. It wasn't just me that they were laughing at. It was you! It was your families! And it was your values!"
Precisely. Exactly. That is exactly what these people have always felt: That they are the true America, the real America, the blessed America. But they are sneered at by a bunch of elite liberals, media stooges and Hollywood perverts.
But Dan Quayle is different. Dan Quayle understands them. Dan Quayle is one of them.
"I grew up in Huntington," Quayle says. "A small farming community in Indiana. Life revolved around family, public school, Little League and church. My brother and I shared a bedroom. Walked to school."
Twenty miles! In the snow! And Dan read books by firelight! And then went out and split rails!
OK, so maybe that's an exaggeration. But if you listen to Dan Quayle real carefully and squint up your eyes real good, you can almost see Abraham Lincoln standing before you.
If you truly believe.