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It's a sad note but is it possible that a couple of hundred thousand Iraqis and several hundred Panamanians are victims of President Bush's hyperactive thyroid? Did we actually fight the Thyroid War in the Middle East?

Don't laugh. The president has been diagnosed as having Graves' disease. Here's what the Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th Edition, has to say:"The increased levels of thyroid hormone result in increased cardiac output with tachycardia, palpitations, possible shortness of breath, fibrillation and digitalis-resistant heart failure. Nervousness, hyperexcitability, restlessness, insomnia and emotional instability are not unusual, nor are weight loss, muscular weakness and wasting, and diarrhea."

An emotionally unstable, hyperexcit-able, restless insomniac is not my idea of the ideal man to make decisions about war or peace. If you believe Bob Woodward's new book, "The Commanders," and that always requires an act of faith, then it was Bush, not Gen. Colin Powell or Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf who was pushing the war option.

If you will recall the time prior to the euphoria, Bush often acted angry, used harsh and intemperate language, and behaved in other ways not often associated with a statesman in the middle of managing an international crisis. It was certainly not the act of a reasonable and calm man to insist on playing golf and scooting about in a powerboat while dispatching American reservists and Guardsmen to distant shores. It wasn't even smart politics, and ordinarily Bush is a smart political tactician.

Of course whether Bush's thyroid disorder influenced his behavior and thinking and thus the course of history is not something we can ever know, which is why I put it in the form of a question. Not even Bush himself can answer that question, for when we are emotionally unstable, we don't realize we're emotionally unstable.

But it is worth reminding us of the danger of placing too much power in the hands of one man. All human beings are both fallible and vulnerable. Moreover the very kinds of illness that are most dangerous in a powerful figure are exactly those kinds most difficult for those around a leader to diagnose.

The men who wrote our Constitution, most of them familiar with history and especially the history of the Roman Empire, were well aware of the danger of a single powerful individual, which, no doubt, is one of the reasons they chose to put the warmaking power in the hands of Congress, not in the president's.

Congress itself is subject to the same human fallibilities and frailties as the rest of us, but it is unlikely that a majority of 535 people will lose their grasp on reality at the same time.

Suppose a president goes mad? And now, let me emphasize, I'm not even speculating about Bush, but simply raising a generic question. It's conceivable we might elect a man who, after taking office, would drift into insanity.

Over and over again, I rediscover how wise were the drafters of the Constitution - how what appears at first glance arbitrary is actually based on a wise reading of human history.

Bush's illness should serve as warning to us not to disregard the constitutional safeguards and to follow rashly the sad path of others who placed blind faith in one man.