Have you noticed that all the candidates contesting so energetically for the presidency are men?

If somewhere in this land a woman is running, she is doing it very unobtrusively. Her candidacy is one of the best-kept secrets of the year.

All the snorting and bellowing and posturing and pawing of the ground and baring of the teeth and wheeling and dealing is being done by men who want to be president. A rational person must wonder why anybody would want the job.

One who runs for office must realize he's flirting with danger. Only a slow learner runs for a second term.

The first time around, the candidate may be excused for thinking it's his civic duty to run. He thinks he's intelligent enough to find solution to public problems, and winning an election might even help his career. So his hat goes sailing into the ring.

But if he is elected, he quickly discovers that nobody can please some of the people all of the time, or all of the people some of the time; and it sometimes appears that you can't please any of the people any of the time.

The higher the office, the more certainly its occupant finds himself in a no-win position. Quite naturally, the ultimate sense of frustration is reserved for our presidents.

If they take action, they're rash or impetuous; if they don't, they're weak or indecisive. If they stand up for America, they're jingoists; if they don't, they're cowards and maybe even Commies. If they give orders that something be done and the operation is successful, credit goes to the people who did what they were told to do; if the operation fails, the blame is the president's.

Then a woman in Brooklyn tells broadcasters that "the man has gone berserk -- he's gone off and done this thing without telling anybody. Nobody even knew." And an otherwise sensible congressman (Reuss of Wisconsin, who just happens to be a Kennedy supporter) suggests that Carter should announce that he will not be a candidate for renomination "and just quietly serve out his term without any more impulsive actions."

I am tempted to suggest that Henry Reuss resign from the Congress and go stand in the corner for his impulsive attack on the president in a time of crisis, but I do have a little bit of common sense, and I realize this would be unfair. Reuss is a dedicated public servant, as is Jimmy Carter, the man he maligned. Reuss doesn't really deserve to be insulted for using bad judgment on one occasion, or even on several.

We should, of course, apply this same standard to President Carter and to every other president. We should recognize that almost all our presidents have supported policies they honestly thought to be in the best interests of the nation. Some presidents have been wiser than others, some have been more fearful, some more charismatic, and some have been just plain luckier than others. But whether they took the high road or the low road, and whatever their percentage of failures and successes, they all did what they thought was best for the country. To malign them and second-guess them is outrageously unfair.

Yet this has been the fate of every president in my lifetime. I started with Woodrow Wilson being branded a fool for proposing 14 idealistic points for inclusion in a treaty aimed at establishing world peace. I'm ending with Jimmy Carter being invited to disappear by Henry Reuss.

The first time Carter ran, one could understand his thinking that he was doing his duty by volunteering for service. But the second time around, one must wonder: Why would a sensible man be willing to subject himself to such abuse again? Is it vanity?

In Carter's case, I think not. I suppose now that he has served his apprenticeship and learned through on-the-job training, he feels he's the most qualified man to see us through the next four years. And perhaps he is.

Only one politician had the guts to come right out and state the truth about Carter's decision to try to rescue the hostages, and strangely enough that was George Bush, a man who hopes to run against Carter for the presidency. Bush said Carter had made a tough decision and deserved the support of every American.

It should be noted that Ted Kennedy also rose above policies and refrained from criticism. And of course there was no back-stabbing from a female candidate for president. If there is a woman running for the office, she maintained a discreet silence.

But I suspect no woman is running. Women have too much sense to subject themselves to such punishment.

It's bad enough just being a homemaker and breadwinner. Imagine being forced to decide when military operations should be go or no-go, taking a lot of abuse from Henry Reuss, and then coming home to a husband who snaps, "I suppose dinner is going to be late again because you had a rough day at the White House."

Who needs that kind of burden?