SECRETARY OF STATE Kissinger, certainly. Policy adviser Kissinger, sure. Even, as he once jokingly suggested, His Excellency Henry Kissinger. But Gov. Kissinger? This week, the former national security adviser and Cabinet officer announced he was giving serious consideration to suggestions from New York Republican leaders that he run for chief executive of that state.

Well, why not? Lesser mortals have risen from county commissioner and assemblyman to take on the top state job. Others with no government experience of any kind -- Ronald Reagan, Woodrow Wilson -- have gone to statehouses and served to the satisfaction of the electorate. Mr. Kissinger is known as a quick study, and while he hasn't spent much of his career dealing with sewage treatment plants, public-employe strikes and revenue sharing, there is no reason to suppose he couldn't take on these tasks.

It is not so much the image of Henry Kissinger as governor that strikes our fancy, though, as the image of him as candidate. A race between Henry Kissinger and the incumbent, Democrat Mario Cuomo, has real possibilities. Both are men of acknowledged brilliance -- articulate, well read, witty. Their debates could jump. The ethnic angles are especially appropriate to New York. Where else could a child of immigrants who revels in this legacy be one-upped by an actual immigrant? And both men rose from modest circumstances. New Yorkers are always proud of their diverse backgrounds and self-made successes.

It does take some imagining to visualize Henry Kissinger cheerfully calling "hi ya, fella," noshing with apparent delight on everything from dim sum to corned beef and cabbage, or looking anywhere near comfortable while working the Coney Island boardwalk on the Fourth of July. But a Cuomo- Kissinger contest would be bracing -- at the least a whole lot of fun.