ALL RIGHT. I submit. I give in. Turn off the klieg lights. Stop flashing the Bushwith-the-Pope images. Enough with the force feeding of champagne and truffles. Bush is God. God is Bush. John Kerry is a spineless sack of contradictions.

After a week in New York's Camp GOP-tanamo I have contracted an acute, possibly fatal, case of Stockholm Syndrome. I don't just identify with my Republican captors, I slavishly echo them. I trail around their cruddy parties, pleading to be allowed into Cipriani's and the Plaza so I can rub shoulder-pads with women in outfits that would make your eyeballs bleed. I wait for two hours for five minutes' access to the Bush twins' 'R-party' (where 'R' most definitely stood for risible). I line up outside Planet Hollywood in Times Square waiting for a glimpse of Arnold Schwarzenegger. My interrogation of protesters outside the convention centre on Thursday night would have made Donald Rumsfeld proud.

During the convention speeches I laugh hysterically at the speakers, albeit not at points where they may have intended. After four days in the giant Republican holding cell that is Madison Square Gardens, Dick Cheney starts looking weirdly attractive. I wake up every morning with a new collection of Bush badges. As I write this column I'm wearing a tee-shirt that says VIVA BUSH! I take notes with a Bush/Cheney 2004 pen.

It wasn't always thus.

Back on Day One I amused myself by signing up all my diehard New York Democratic buddies (including a few Kerry operatives) for a tour of duty as Bush volunteers.

On Sunday night, I snickered as a handful of protesters shouted "Four More Beers!"

at the Bush twins as they alighted from their Black SUV outside the Roseland Ballroom. I marvelled at how they manage to combine the brains of Beavis and ButtHead with the vacuousness of the Hilton sisters and the diva quotient of Diana Ross.

A feat of which they are justifiably proud.

There was something about this convention, about the Republicans' absolute sense of self-righteousness, not to mention their absolute lack of dress sense, that is simultaneously fascinating and appalling. The utter lack of tolerance for dissent. The unshakeable belief, despite all evidence to the contrary that Saddam Hussein and 9/11 are interchangeable aspects of the war on terror.

The conviction that to paraphrase one GOP poster "God Hats [sic] Fags and Islam", that George W Bush and the Almighty, if not one and the same person, are as close as makes no difference.

For Republicans the convention was all about 11 September. They didn't so much milk it for political advantage as shamelessly strip-mine its dwindling seam of sentiment and pathos. Nothing mattered except 9/11 and Bush atop a pile of rubble with a bullhorn and a bewildered looking fireman.

By Day Three the mere sight of a Republican is enough to make you sign up for active duty in Fallujah. It certainly beats hearing another misty-eyed account of Bush and the bullhorn, and how he told the terrorists they'd be "hearing from all of us soon".

Like all extreme events, the New York gathering had its surreal moments. To witness a Republican dancing is to witness the human form force itself into contortions that God (even a Republican God) can never have intended. To witness grown, not to say overgrown, men in ill-fitting suits, high kick their way through the camped-up strains of 'There's No Business Like Show Business' is an experience that is best described as unforgettable.

Ditto the sight of a 300lb delegate from Missouri who complemented the giant elephant's hat on his head with an American flag planted in each ear. Then there was the fight outside Sotheby's where anti-Bush protesters protested at the Republicans' posthumous annexing of Johnny Cash. The Tennessee delegation decision to honour Cash as one of their own was simply too much for the scores of Cash lookalike protesters who roared their outrage outside the auction house.

That the Republican Convention couldn't attract a live celebrity worthy of the name is a given. Unless you count Bo Derek (whom Joan Rivers wickedly described as being so stupid she had to study for her smear test).

And even Bo seemed more concerned with pushing her line of doggy shampoos than pushing the Republican agenda.

Undaunted, New York's Republican governor George Pataki, who has his eye on a 2008 run at the White House, opted for the next best thing. He held his party at Madame Tussaud's on Times Square. That way, waxy looking Republicans could have their photographs taken next to even waxier versions of Arnie, Clint Eastwood, Lenny Kravitz and Bette Midler.

With Bush arriving late and leaving early and Cheney limiting himself to early morning breakfasts for billionaires, it was left to Arizona senator John McCain and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to keep the party flag flying.

Which they did with an heroic enthusiasm. Arnie spent much of his time pressing flesh, prodding biceps that were proffered to him and loudly concluding their owners were "definitely not girlie men". Rarely has such a lame expression got so much mileage. Aside from Arnie and the rehabilitated former mayor Rudy Giuliani, McCain . . . who also has his eye on the Republican 2008 ticket . . . is the only Republican that most New Yorkers can tolerate.

You couldn't shake a protest placard without hitting McCain; there was a raucous media bash at Elaine's, yacht parties and a dozen private parties in Upper East Side penthouses.

The biggest was a party he hosted with his wife Cindy on Wednesday night, even if the most interesting person at the event was McCain's 92year-old mother. After not too much prodding he led the crowd in a less than rousing version of 'New York, Yew York' ending with a heart felt and off-key; "Its. . .

Up. . . To . .You. . . Re. . .

Pub. . .Lic. . .Ans".

Not to be outdone, Vegas comedian Joe Piscopo offered a tribute to McCain by adapting the Sinatra Hit 'My Way' as follows:

"Regrets/ He's Had a Few/ But then again/ Too few to mention/ He chased/ Michael Moore/ Out of. . . / The Convention.

You had to be there as they say. No, really.