Colin Powell, his literary life completed, has gone to earth with advisers to ponder a political life. These advisers, for whom he is a ticket to the circus and who therefore will urge him to run, should quickly help to equip him with answers to questions like:

During Nelson Rockefeller's 14 years as New York's governor, the top income tax rate more than doubled and state and local taxes more than tripled. Not surprisingly, the growth of private-sector jobs was four times faster in the nation as a whole than in New York, which experienced a 1,000 percent increase in welfare spending. The state had fewer than 400,000 welfare recipients when Rockefeller became governor but had 1.4 million when he left. You call yourself a "Rockefeller Republican." Why?

You say you are in the "sensible center." Does that mean people to the right of center are not sensible?

Your friend Bob Woodward, the reporter, writes that after you watched the Conservative Political Action Conference convention on C-SPAN you said to a friend, "Can you imagine me standing up and talking to these people?" What is it about "these people" that makes talking to them hard for you to imagine?

Reviewing your book in the New Republic, Nicholas Lemann notes that in 600 pages you do not "display the tiniest hint of wanting fundamentally to shake up the political system, or any system." Are you fundamentally content with the status quo?

Which parts of the Contract With America do you consider "a little too hard, a little too harsh, a little too unkind"?

You call yourself "a fiscal conservative with a social conscience." Who else would you describe that way? How would your social conscience express itself in fiscally conservative policies?

Talking with students before a San Antonio speech you said, in the context of a question about the balanced-budget amendment, "I hate fooling with the Constitution." Does that mean you oppose the amendment?

In a Jan. 31 story about one of your public appearances, the New York Times reported that your "ideas sometimes seem so inclusive as to be contradictory," giving as an example the fact that "while discussing the need to recreate the American family,' he said, gesturing to a person in the audience who had criticized the military's policy on admitting homosexuals, It doesn't even have to be a two-gender family.' " Could you elaborate?

You opposed lifting the ban on gays in the military, citing the military's unique nature and mission. However, in 41 states it is legal to fire a person because of his or her sexual orientation. Should it be? If not, should there be a federal law making discrimination regarding sexual orientation akin to racial discrimination in hiring and housing?

Who lied, Anita Hill or Clarence Thomas? Who more closely resembles your idea of the ideal Supreme Court justice, Thomas or Earl Warren? Should Robert Bork have been confirmed?

You favor some forms of affirmative action. What about the federal program of racial set-asides for minority ownership of television and radio stations, under which you and some partners acquired a Buffalo television station? To Henry Louis Gates Jr., who was writing about you for the New Yorker, you said, "But it's black owned. If you got a bunch of white guys with a brother fronting for them, get rid of it. That doesn't serve any purpose for us." What public purpose is served by government granting to affluent investors racial entitlements to communications media?

As president, would your budget include money for public television and the arts and humanities endowments?

You object to the use the Bush campaign made of Willie Horton in the 1988 campaign. Do you know who first raised the issue of Horton and the Massachusetts furlough program? (Hint: He raised it during the Democrats' New York primary and is now vice president.) What exactly was objectionable about citing Horton and his rape victim as a consequence of that prisoner-release program?

After the O. J. Simpson verdict you said, "It is a racist society. All you have to do is listen to Mark Fuhrman." Does that mean most, or a great many, Americans resemble Fuhrman? Or that racism is the principal impediment to African American advances? Prof. Glenn Loury of Boston University, a leading African American intellectual, has said that if with a magic wand you changed the color of the skin of the people on Chicago's south side or in south-central Los Angeles you would not appreciably change their life prospects. Do you disagree?

There. Twenty-two questions. Twenty-two more, on request.