THEY DID WITH HIM what they did with the others. They asked him to speak. They took him into the room, and then the 17 of them, all teachers, listened to what he had to say and then asked him questions. They asked him about labor issues and economic issues and issues having to do with children, and then they voted. When the ballots were in, the Washington Teachers' Union, by a vote of 17 to zip, had endorsed the Rev. Douglas Moore's attempt to return to the City Council. It is not clear if he was asked about gay rights.

It is not clear, either, if he was asked about the night he lobbed a rock through some lady's window or the time he bit a tow-truck operator in a fight or his opposition to gun control, or the default of his loan or even the time he had to pay a $200 fine for using dealer tags on his personal car. There are, in fact, a lot of questions that you can ask Doug Moore, but it is not clear if the teachers asked even about gay rights.

"I don't know," said Robert Cobb, the chairman of the union political action committee. "I really don't know.Most of the questions were not directed at that part of the arena. We asked about other areas. We asked about educational issues and issues that affect the children, like rent control. Gay rights and that sort of stuff-I'm not sure we got into that."

It appears that the teachers union got into precious little of what has made the Rev. Douglas Moore one of Washington's more controversial public figures. What primarily concerned the union, its president, William Simon, acknowledged, was where Moore stood on issues that affected the teachers union, teachers and schoolchildren. On these matters, Doug Moore was unassailable. He got the endorsement.

It was their privilege. Moore is not without his attributes. He is, and has been, an articulate spokesman for the city's poor-the very, very poor for whom almost no one speaks.He has been a good friend of education, a strong supporter of adequate school budgets, a City Council member who proposed, for better or for worse, that the schools be guaranteed a certain percentage of the city budget each year. You can see why the teachers like him.

And you can understand why others like him. The unions arefalling all over themselves endorsing him because he has been good to labor. Some of the ministerial groups have endorsed him because he is, after all, a minister. The tenant groups are behind him because he's forrent control, a lid on condominium conversion and because he understands that the nature and character of the city may be changing-that he, in effect, speaks for lots of people who see the balance of power shifting,tipping, slipping away and who fear for the future. Say what you will about him, Douglas Moore speaks the concerns of many people. He should be listened to.

The end result of all this is that Doug Moore, better than anyone else, is reaping the benefits of single-issue politics. Justabout no one wants to deal with the whole man. Interest groups see in him what they want to see. Some, in fact, see nothing more than a way of thwarting Mayor Barry's plan to put his own man, John Ray, on the council. Everyone is looking out for no. 1, ignoring the larger issues, pushing them toward the rear and talking about Douglas Moore as if he can be compartmentalized, trotted out for just housing votes, or school votesor just to say something fiery and wonderful in behalf of poor people.in fact, William Simon, the president of the Teachers Union, acted surprised that I would even bring up the issue of gay rights. What he said,more or less, was that's not his department.

But it is. It is for allthe reasons that now sound like cliches-that business about respecting minorities and not abusing people who already have been abused enough and not, at the very least, calling them "fascist faggots" as Doug Moore has done. This issue and the others raised by Moore's candidacy-his minor criminal record, for instance-is one that should concern teachers. They are the ones, after all, who make a special claim on us because they are the ones who teach our children, who invoke their welfare in their own struggles and who say they think of children first in everything theydo. This time they thought of a lot of things. Unfortunately, settinga good example was not one of them.