THE SATURDAY NIGHT before the Republican National Convention opened, I arrived in New Orleans, dropped my bags at the hotel, and set off through the French Quarter in search of a late dinner. It was almost like walking onto the set of Satyricon, the difference being that, for this version, central casting had brought in all Republicans: a kind of PG-13 Satyricon. But the spirit was willing. First I saw Senator James McClure (American Conservative Union rating: 100) sauntering down Bourbon Street, the legendary avenue of gin joints and flesh parlors. I caught sight of him as he passed by Big Daddy's All-Female Wrestling Parlor. He didn't stop, I admit, but he was smiling, and the incongruity -- What's wrong with this picture? -- startled me. Across the street some middle-aged folk in Robertson hats glanced good-naturedly into a saloon advertising "Unisex Love Action." They elbowed one another and laughed. A few doors down, a woman with a BUSH sticker wrapped around her rump was pouring beer over the head of a woozy friend, who had collapsed against the side of a gift shop that sells what used to be called French postcards.