After the presidential election is over, political debts must be paid. Those who did the most for their candidates have to be rewarded.

If George Bush wins, there is no doubt that the person who'll get all the credit is Willie Horton, the murderer-rapist who was given a weekend furlough from a Massachusetts prison and then committed rape and beat up a couple."How did you find Willie?"

A campaign staffer explained. "The campaign was looking for a murderer-rapist to illustrate how soft Dukakis was on crime. Willie's name popped up in the computers and we rushed it over to the boss. At first, George, who is by nature a kinder, gentler person, didn't want anything to do with it. But Bush's handlers said, `You owe it to the country to reveal what a sleazy governor Dukakis really is.' "

"That should have sold George," I said.

"When Bush traveled out on the stump with the Willie Horton issue the crowds went wild - and just in time. Up until then, the candidate had put his audiences to sleep with his plan for the environment, and every time George discussed the deficit, it was Valium time. But as soon as George mentioned rape and murder and Willie Horton, he got nothing but standing ovations."

"Were his supporters cheering murder and rape as an idea?"

"No, they were cheering the fact that the governor had let Willie Horton out of the pokey, which showed what kind of a president Mike Dukakis would make. At first, we thought that Willie would be a good issue for a couple of weeks - but it turned out that Bush got to like it. The people couldn't get enough of the speech."

"Have you ever thought of having Bush meet and thank Willie for all he's done?"

"It's a great photo opportunity, but we decided not to do it until after the election. Don't forget, besides screwing up his furlough, Willie also endorsed Dukakis for president from his cell."

"Was that your idea?" I asked the staffer.

"No, Willie's. He thought of it all by himself. I think he's hoping to be awarded the Medal of Freedom if Bush gets into the White House."

"It's going to be hard for the Bush administration to find a job for Willie now that he is back in the pen."

"Bush was thinking of `The Willie Horton Post Office' across from the governor's mansion in Boston, just to stick it to Dukakis for the sleazy campaign he ran."

"I'm sure Willie would like that. You know it's quite possible that if Willie had known he was going to be the most important person in the 1988 presidential race, he might have gone straight and never committed a crime at all."

"That wouldn't have done him any good. If he had kept clean, no one would have even mentioned his name."