Talk about ruining your day . . .

About the time the gulf war has driven politics out of sight and mind, George McGovern reappears.It was like seeing the ghost of the flower- children decade floating high in the sky whistling a Joan Baez folk tune.

And sure enough, right there were McGovern's own words. You could almost hear that South Dakota twang. "In my soul, I know my qualifications for the presidency."

And then, he listed wisdom, wit, historical perspective and toughness. He said they're "better at 68 than they were at 48. "

Why would anyone who in 1972 managed to lose every state except Massachusetts (and the District of Columbia) want to make another run for the presidency?

Seems he'll make the run unless a properly liberal Democrat enters the race first. He wants a candidate who will challenge the policies "that set the stage for the war."

Obviously McGovern hasn't been reading the papers lately. Or watching TV. Maybe he hasn't noticed the huge upsurge in flag waving patriotism caused by the gulf war.

The war has thrown a wet blanket over the more prominent Democrat presidential hopefuls, such as Missouri Rep. Richard Gephardt, Tennessee Sen. Albert Gore, Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn and New York Gov. Mario Cuomo.

They, and other Democrats, are walking somewhat softly these days, very sensitive to the danger inherent in hurling rocks at Bush while he's winning the war.

Meanwhile, Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, is making speeches to the GOP, saying that if Walter Mondale or Michael Dukakis had been elected to the White House, "the Berlin Wall would still be standing and Saddam Hussein would be in Saudi Arabia today."

This kind of talk isn't calculated to please congressional Democrats, who are already painfully aware of the outlook if the gulf war comes to a swift end and with minimum casualties. It seems to be heading that way this week.

America is already giving Bush and the war effort startling support, the greatest given a president and a war since World War II - 50 years ago.

The future implications are enormous.

It seems to mark the end of at least three decades of public cynicism and distrust triggered by the Kennedy assassination, Vietnam War and Watergate scandal. We're witnessing a remarkable restoration of pride in the country.

How long this transformation may last beyond victory is hard to guess. But one thing seems to grow more certain each day, that George Bush will be a shoo-in for re-election in 1992.

Which means many Democrat presidential hopefuls will quickly lose interest, not liking the role of sacrificial lamb.

We could assume that the party that selected Carter, Mondale and Dukakis in the last three presidential races might favor a change. They might welcome a candidate with similar experience at playing burnt offering. A candidate like George McGovern.