As soon as the story appeared saying that Richard Nixon is planning a return to active public life, I heard from a federal who sounded very upset and agitated.

"Do you think that man can be serious?" he asked.

Could be.

"I can't believe it. Has be no sense of decency, no shame, no sensitivity?"

Richard M. Nixon?

"I forgot, He never keeps his promises. He always says he's all through, but then he comes back. But why do you think he is doing it this time?"

Maybe he's just lonesome out there.

"No. He has to be up to something. Nixon is always up to something. He's probably trying to hype the sale of his hook. He's always been greedy."

That could be.

"No. It has to be more than just money. Maybe it's his ego. He wants to gave a say in the nomination of the next Republican presidential candidate. That's probably it."

Probably.

"Sure, that's what it is. He's plotting to build up his personal following before 1980; then he'll be a power broker at the Republican convention. Whoever the candidate is, to get Nixon's support he'll have to promise to take certain positions, appoint Nixon people to key positions, follow Nixon's foreign-policy ideas."

Possibly.

"Yes, yes, that's got to be it. Or maybe he wants even more. How do we know that Nixon isn't planning to get himself appointed secretary of state? My god, that's got to be it. That man wants to get right back in the middle of things, to be at the center of power. He wants to go flying around the world, representing this country, stepping off jets, waving at the cameras again. Can you imagine that?"

Sure.

"Why am I even thinking about this? It's impossible. He can't possibly do it."

Probably not.

"On the other hand, he has his loyal followers. The old Nixon people never thought he did anything wrong. They think he was just railroad out of the White House. If he gave the word they'd come running with votes and money in a minute."

Less than a minute.

"Why, it's ridiculous, but even if he said he wanted to run for president again, they'd have a bandwagon going full steam ahead."

With whistles blowing.

"Right. I can just see them. They'd say Reagan is too old and too far right. That Ford was never anything more than a fill-in. That Simon isn't well known enough, that Dole can't win. That only Nixon could put it all together again. It would be hilarious."

Ludicrous.

"Right. Even Nixon and his people wouldn't have the gall to think that he could run for president again."

It's unthinkable.

"He wants to do it! My god, that's what he's up to! He wants to run for president again."

He always did like shaking hands.

"But he couldn't win. It's unthinkable. Not after Watergate. Not after 'your president isn't a crook.' Not after the 18-minute tape. Why, it would be the worst political disaster in history. He'd be booed at every appearance.

It would be humilitating.

"But what if he won! I mean, anything can happen in politics. People forget. They forgive. Remember, he was through after he lost in 1960. He said we wouldn't have him to kick around when he lost in 1962. Why, he should have been through after the Checkers incident way back in 1952. But he always gets the stake out of his heart somehow."

Stranger things have happened.

"Good grief, he'll win, I'm sure of it! And he'll be back in the White House, making a V with his fingers on the White House lawn, having trumpets blare when he walks into the room, the whole disgusting scene again. Oh, this is terrible, terrible."

Maybe he'll even talk to the paintings on the wall again.

"When he gets in there again, you know that he'll do, don't you? He'll take his revenge. Of course he will. That's what the whole thing is about. He'll figure out how to get even with everyone who got him out of there. He'll sit in the Oval Office, plotting against us, thinking of ways to destroy us, bugging, snooping, sneaking, spying. He won't be satisfied until he has evened every score, real or imaginary, big or little. Oh, that man is capable of anything ."

Or worse.

"There are dark days ahead. Just thinking about Nixon in power again makes my head swim, my limbs shake, my mouth dry. I have spots before my eyes, a pounding in my ears, a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye."

You must feel awful.

"Awful? Are you kidding? I haven't felt this great since 1974."