YOU REMEMBER John Anderson, the presidential candidate who has promised to be brave and bold, to break free of the political constraints and routines that blind lesser candidates, to be (as he has put it) different? Well, Rep. Anderson has been in the Middle East, and he does turn out to be different from the other American politicians who have made Israel a standard stop on the American campaign trail. But what has been different about him is that he has been unusually shameless about ethnic politicking.

No other presidential candidate has ever visited Israel during a campaign -- when there is an obvious danger that his observations will play unfortunately into current diplomacy. And surely no other candidate has convinced so many different parties that his first reason for going to Israel was to make it to the White House.

Local Palestinians were so upset by Mr. Anderson's performance in Jerusalem, where he was wholly insensitive to Arab feelings about the eastern half of the city, that even the most moderate among them refused to meet him, and the candidate had to leave a place where the Palestinian problem is central without having spoken with a single Palestinian.His plans to visit Jordan were cut off at the Jordanian end. Putting down, in his remarks in Israel, Egypt's claim to be a regional strategic partner of the United States, he arrived in Cairo to loud local complaints that he had simply been fishing for the American Jewish vote. In Israel, some Israelis took satisfacton from extracting statements from Mr. Anderson that might be held over him later. But other Israelis either shook their heads over the candidate's bald use of their country as a campaign stage or expressed reservations about the value of any declarations made under political duress.

Mr. Anderson could have visited the Mideast, spoken with many different people, looked closely, nodded attentively and gone home wiser and with his options intact. That would have been the responsible and presidential thing. Instead, he has acted in a way that raises doubts about his capacity to deal effectively with one of the most important issues in American foreign policy. That is the Anderson difference?