This column is about who our next president will be, and it begins with a premise: that human beings make mistakes. That they are not perfect. That the ones who run for office have the same temptations, weaknesses and remorse that you and I have.

If you don’t accept this premise, don’t bother reading on. Your vote has been cast.

And you’re voting for the wrong person.

The right person for president is someone who knows how to get things done. Someone who has run something in his or her life, like a business, or a college, or a newspaper. Someone who is familiar with money, enough to know its power, and authority, enough to know its danger. Someone who started at the bottom, learning the value of hard work.

Someone who has traveled and seen that different people have different ways. Someone with an education and a love of history. Someone with a family, because caring for a nation requires a parental-type love. Someone with compassion for the poor and sick.

Someone who has been around, tried things, so that nothing comes as a shock. Someone who has learned from mistakes and can laugh at them. Someone who loves the principles of America: freedom, equality, the right to a fair shake no matter who you are.

Sounds great, huh? Forget it. It’ll never happen. Because such a person also would have one other characteristic: common sense.

And common sense says that running for president these days just isn’t worth it. Sane people need not apply

Want proof? Look at Bill Clinton.

Clinton, the Arkansas governor and a Democratic candidate for president, became an appetizer to our scandal-hungry media when a woman named Gennifer Flowers said she had a 12-year affair with him. The fact that she said this, for a fee, to a supermarket tabloid, the Star — which also reports things like Elvis coming back for a cheeseburger — had little bearing on the story. She said it. He denied it. Bingo. Front page.

“We should get back to the real problems of this country,” Clinton urged during a “60 Minutes” interview last Sunday. He was sitting next to his wife who admitted that, while they had difficulties, they still love each other and are working this thing out.

But that didn’t stop Flowers from drawing a mob at her press conference. It didn’t stop headlines like “HE SAYS NO, SHE SAYS YES.” It didn’t stop all three networks from leading their news with the story. Suddenly, a guy who few had ever heard of was thrust into the spotlight with his pants down.

And somewhere, the right person for president shook his or her head and said, “No way would I put myself — or my family — through that.”

Don’t we realize what we’re doing with this witch hunt for titillating secrets? We are driving any sane person from ever wanting to be president. And why? Because we demand such high standards? Or because sex and scandal are all we’re interested in anymore? Political views take backseat

Clinton is hardly the first to feel this sting. Gary Hart was shot down by his romances. Ted Kennedy’s personal life has handcuffed his ambitions. Geraldine Ferraro’s finances were raked over the coals when she sought the vice presidency. Thomas Eagleton was forced out when he revealed a past medical treatment for depression and exhaustion.

Now I am not saying we should elect a louse. What I am saying is, in this day and age, if you eliminate everyone who ever had a marital indiscretion, ever experimented with marijuana, ever had too much to drink, you are eliminating a huge chunk of the population. And what you are left with are folks who may pass on those tests but fail on others.

George Bush, as far as we know, has never cheated on Barbara. Yet he’s shown a constant disregard for the poor. Where does that rank on the sin list?

Ronald Reagan, by all accounts, never fooled around on Nancy, yet it didn’t stop him from “forgetting” about Iran-contra.

Richard Nixon, it is said, never cheated on his wife; he just cheated on the country. Meanwhile, John Kennedy, who many say was the last good president, supposedly slept with women all over the White House.

Face it. We Americans are more interested in sleaze than substance. I bet nine out of 10 people can’t tell me Clinton’s view on the economy; but they can tell me his love life.

For this we must blame the media, because the media chase these stories like hungry dogs. But the public is guilty, too. Nobody forces you to buy the Star or watch “Inside Edition.” Yet so many of you do.

The end result? We elect actors and aristocrats, then complain that America is screwed up. And we wait for the next sucker so we can peep into his bedroom. It’s sad. It’s true. And so is this:

Somewhere out there is the perfect person to run this country.

And out there is where he or she will stay.

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