FIRST, A FEW WORDS from our President - good and high-minded words, delivered at his last press conference, on the subject of human rights: "We are a signatory of the Helsinki agreement. We are, ourselves, culpable in some ways for not giving people adequate right to move around our country, or restricting unnecessarily, in my opinion, visitation to this country by those who disagree with us politically. So I think that we all ought to take a position in our country and among our friends and allies, among our potential adversaries, that human rights is something on which we should bear a major respondibility for leadership."

Meanwhile, back in the world of reality, the State Department is still denying visas to foreign Communists who want to come here and talk to Americans. The latest example is an Australian named Jack Mundey, the former president of a construction laborers' union there. He's now engaged in a campaign to bring organized labor into enviromental movements. He's also indisputably a Communist, which means that the State Department has to waive a particularly foolish and harmful provision of the McCarran Act before giving him a visa. He has had a waiver and a visa as recently as last November, when he came here to address a wildlife organization in San Francisco. He wanted to come back this winter to talk to other audiences - including labor groups. That, of course, is where the trouble lay.

The AFL-CIO objects to letting Communists into the country. It objects vehemently - and successfully - to letting them in to talk with American unions. The State Department will waive the McCarran requirement only when it can be done quietly. The AFL-CIO is nearby and noisy while Helsinki is, after all, far away. Letting Mr. Mundey in to talk to bird-watchers is all right, but letting him in to say the same things to union members is out. That's the way it's been for years and, despite the stirring music at Mr. Carter's press conference, apparently that's still the way it is at the State Department.

If you were to draw up a short list of this World's genuinely right-wing governments, Spain would probably be in it. But you might have noticed that a few days ago there was a meeting, altogether public, of the Spanish, Italian and French Communist parties in Madrid, of all places. That meeting could not have been held in the United States. The participants couldn't have got visas. But then, Spain doesn't have anything quite like the AFL-CIO.