I'M GETTING into the presidential race," Crookshank said.

"Are you crazy?" I told him. "No one has even heard of you."

"That's why I'm going to run. I'm an unknown."

"But there is an unknown candidate running -- John Anderson of Illinois."

"He isn't unknown any more. Everyone talks about him being the unknown candidate, and the more they talk about him, the more known he's becoming. By the time the convention rolls around, he's going to be the most known candidate of them all. You know something -- Anderson peaked too early. Had he remained an unknown candidate right up until the Republican Convention, he might have made it."

"How can you say that?"

"The way things are going in this country, people would rather put their money on an unknown candidate. The less they know about him, the more they think he can do something to turn things around.

"I'm not blaming Anderson. It isn't his fault. The media just got tired of writing about the other candidates and needed a new angle. So they decided that John Anderson was Jimmy Stewart, a lonely man without organization, money or press coverage trying to make a desperate attempt at winning the presidential nomination. Everyone loves that kind of story, and now you have 20 to 30 reporters, plus television crews, following Anderson around telling everyone of his impossible battle to save the country from Ronald Reagan. He's the American man of La Mancha."

I told Crookshank, "John Anderson's an honest man. I'm sure he never planned on using his anonymity to steal the nomination from the other Republican contenders."

"I didn't say he wasn't honest. All I said was that by July the public is going to be tired of him. They're going to say, 'As an unknown, Anderson's been overexposed.'

"Look at the people getting on the Anderson bandwagon -- liberal Republicans, Democrats and even the noncommitted. The kids have also discovered him. Pretty soon the money is going to start rolling in. 'Anderson for President' stickers are starting to appear on cars. I wouldn't be surprised if one of the hot-shot political consultants is hired to run his campaign. They'll start flooding the air with TV commercials. Before you know it, Anderson will be one of the pack and the media will lose interest in him. That's when I make my move."

"How do you plan to do that?"

"By pacing myself. I'm not going to start running until June. If I keep a low profile, I can fill the unknown candidate slot three weeks before the convention. By this time the press will be desperate to find somebody new to write about. I'll be a fresh face for 'Face the Nation,' 'Issues and Answers' and 'Meet the Press.' Nobody will have heard my campaign speech before. I'll accuse Anderson of selling out to the powerbrokers by becoming known to the electorate -- and I'll remain unknown for my entire term in office."

"I still say you're crazy."

"They thought Carter was crazy, too. But you know what won him the presidency? It was the day some wise-guy political pundit invented the phrase 'Jimmy Who? My slogan is, 'If you don't know Crookshank, you can trust him.'"

"Okay," I said, "what do you want from me?"

"I want you to be the only newspaperman covering me in my hopeless quest to wrest the nomination from the other candidates who are trying to buy the presidency with money, organization and the help of vested interests. It will be just the three of us -- one campaign aide, myself and you. We'll be a great team."

"Why do you need me?" I asked him.

"I have to have someone from the press to let the rest of the media discover that I'm the only unknown candidate still left in the race."