There was big news from Detroit Wednesday night and Thursday morning, and it cost me heavily.

The Washington Post's team in Detroit (which was almost as large as the task force sent to free U.S. hostages in Iran but more costly to transport, feed and equip) told us that Ronald Reagan had offered to co-star with Jerry Ford and that Ford was considering the offer.

Could these two erstwhile political enemies really run on the same ticket? They had fought bitterly for the nomination in 1976. Later, the Ford people blamed their man's defeat on Reagan's lukewarm support. Now Reagan and Ford would join forces? Incredible! But our political experts said that was what was being discussed.

Night city editor Bill Brady, who is so straight-arrow he doesn't really belong in this venal modern world, said earnestly: "Isn't Ford on record as rejecting the vice presidency under any circumstances?"

John Means, a copy editor who has attempted to teach me to use the English language properly but has not yet succeeded, said: "Yes, he is, Bill, and I think he really means it. I think Ford will reject the offer."

I pulled a dollar bill out of my pocket and put it down in front of Brady. I said to Means, "A dollar says you don't know the first damn thing about politics. Let Brady hold the stakes. I say that before the night is out jerry Ford will perceive a national crisis that will make it necessary for him to accept to nomination."

Means reached into his wallet, extracted a dollar bill, and tossed it over to Brady. "You have a wager," he said to me. "It's always safe to bet that a columnist is wrong."

Well, I'll never forgive Jerry Ford for costing me that dollar. A real politician would have been better attuned to a grass roots call to duty.

However, it is still in order to note that my basic view of politics and politicians retains whatever validity it had before Ford cost me all that money.

When the clips are down, the first law of politics is, "Get yourself or your party elected. Regardless."

People who said on national television 24 hours earlier that they could never feel comfortable with a candidate so liberal (or conservative) deny on the next night that they ever said they wouldn't support him. Heavens, no! And the candidate himself, who last tonight accepts wholeheartedly a conservative running mate and a conservative platform.

I'm a conservative myself, in the sense of respecting and conserving the good things we have inherited from our ancestors. But this is too much. People who bitterly opposed George Bush yesterday will tell you today that a Reagan-Bush ticket is ideal, and if you don't take drastic steps to stop them, they'll explain why.

This is standard operating procedure in both parties, and it is one of the reasons American voters have become disillusioned.

After the Democrats hold their convention and it is finally hammered into Ted Kennedy's head that he has lost, he will be faced with similar choice: close ranks and support the nominee or be branded a traitor to the party and lose Brownie points when they choose a candidate in 1984.

Like Kennedy, I am a slow learner. I am willing to risk another dollar in a wager that Kennedy will campaign for Carter -- just as Bush will campaign for Reagan, whom he bitterly opposed, and Ford will campaign for Reagan, whom he bitterly opposed.

In today's politics, ideology is of little importance. Issues are of little importance. Philosophical differences importance. Philosophical differences are of little importance. The candidate you excoriated yesterday is the nominee for whom you campaign vigorously today. Selah!

Yes, I am disillusioned and discouraged. No, I do not consider John Anderson "different." He is in the same mold: a politician to whom the most importanct thing in the world is getting himself elected.

Anderson has been far right, far left and far center; and I predict that he will touch all the bases again if he thinks it will serve his purpose.

After I wrote about his opposition to the Youth Camp Safety Act, a dozen readers told me they had sent a copy of the column to Anderson and asked him to deny its accuracy. The only answer I received from him was a solicitation to contribute to his campaign fund.

In addition, Anderson sent Mitch Kurman a promise that he would reconsider his position on the bill "after the election." So much for this brave, honest, clean and reverent white knight who opposed youth camp safety legislation on "principle" and constitutional grounds. Bah, humbug!

There is a sad joke making the rounds. Carter, Reagan, Anderson and Kennedy are in a leaky rowboat in the middle of the Atlantic.

You are asked: "Who is saved?"

The only correct answer is: "The United States of America."

Please don't laugh. We are in deep trouble.