THE quadrennial invitation from the US embassy arrived yesterday: it is for me to enjoy American ambassadorial hospitality while watching television coverage of the presidential election. I went once to such a night, back in the days when RTE didn't have a Washington Bureau, and commentary on the election was presented from someone's garden shed in Stillorgan, with analysis from Peig Sayers, whose second cousin had briefly lived in Boston, and the manager of a hotel, chosen because he'd once met John Wayne, and moreover, could mix a mean Manhattan.
RTE's coverage normally stopped before the first result was in, by which time Peig had fallen fast asleep with her pipe in her mouth, and Toddy was under the table singing 'Danny Boy'. So there seemed every reason to attend the embassy party.
In that distant era, the bash was actually at the embassy, with free drink served via firehoses: which was rather like giving Iran's nuclear scientists a guided tour of Strategic Air Command command centre in Omaha.
The US Marine Corps guards watched on in horrified amazement as their guests slid down the glissade of drunkenness into an abyss of witless, brawling stupefaction.
A merciful amnesia has occluded most of the details of the night, and the family nature of the readership of this newspaper obliges non-disclosure concerning the few pitilessly pertinacious memories I do have, all save this: without exception, the guests, including myself, supported the Democrats.
No doubt it'll be much the same at the embassy party this year, save for two small obvious changes: A) I shall not be there to witness the hijinks; and b) these are now prudently relocated to the Guinness Storehouse, not least to prevent a reveller breaking into the ambassador's office and accessing the missile launch codes to launch a pre-emptive strike on Moscow.
But one thing won't change: virtually all the Irish guests will be supporting Barack Obama, because he's a Democrat, which indeed he is, and also because he's "black", which he isn't: though even if he were, to elect someone because of his race is as stupid as rejecting him on the same grounds.
One thing is fairly certain about RTE's coverage of that night -- it will probably have large contributions from Niall O'Dowd and Lara Marlowe, which probably passes as "balance", not merely in Montrose, but throughout the Republic generally. For Ireland almost slavishly backs the Democratic Party, and for much the same reason that it supports Manchester United: a tribalism that has nothing whatever to do with the capabilities or policies of the candidates.
Now, it goes without saying that all US presidential elections are contests between two certifiable lunatics, who freely want to embitter their declining years with the Middle East, and Afghanistan, and North Korea and that outdoor madhouse, the EU.
And of course, their running mates are two slightly lesser lunatics, though with this slightly sinister dimension to their ambitions: both probably -- if only deep in their sub-conscious -- dream of a certain Texas school book depository moment, followed by a dramatic swearing-in and a state funeral wherein their heroic, steely-eyed modesty is probably sufficient to win the next election. (Psychiatrist, anyone?)
However, we need such lunatics, just as we need other lunatics to push their wrists through u-bends in lavatories in late December, as we need other lunatics to clean outside windows 20 storeys up on windy midwinter days, and other lunatics to wander over minefields with metal detectors. And so on.
But that said, there's something pretty disturbing about politicians' desires to rule other people's lives, with their apparent addiction to the degrading ignominies of the electoral process.
Which is why I'd vote for any politician that says he wants to do less for me, and meanwhile, he'll be as invisible and as silent as possible: hence my instinctive support for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
I also like their honesty: they're both openly religious men.
I'm not sure whose religion is more absurd, the one that believes that a lost tribe of Israel ended up in the US around 400 AD, and that the new Eden's going to be in Missouri -- sorry, chaps, I've been to Missouri, even Louth is more likely -- or the one that maintains that the body and blood of Jesus are eaten every time one takes communion.
Yet funnily enough, liberal critics of Republicans' religious beliefs never mention Mr Obama's.
I admit I'm unusual: for if I were Taoiseach, I'd instantly hand over Shannon to the US as an airbase, with an inaugural 60th birthday party for the magnificent Boeing B-52, freedom with eight J-57 engines, which flew for the first time in March 1952.
And so, on the night of November 6, while the Storehouse sinks to a US taxpayer-funded perdition, I'll be prudently at home, hoping for victory for the Rolls Royce of a ticket: Romney-Ryan.