SEN. ALBERT GORE JR. has committed the unpardonable sin of trying to use a debate to debate, and for this he has incurred the quivering, sanctimonious rebuke of his fellow presidential-candidate debaters. How could he? It is not in the interest of the group for him to do this. It is divisive. Boo hoo hoo . . .

Come on, fellows. What has made the debates to date so boring and unattractive is precisely this bloodless, pointless, prepackaged, cliche'-ridden approach to things. We are not yearning for the sight of blood, but rather for the sound of conviction, knowledgeability, intelligence and a drive to succeed. This is not a group trying out an act to be taken on the road. It is not supposed to be auditioning for a permanent network slot. It is supposed to be composed of men who want to be president, who are in the debate to further that interest and to make openly plain why they and not the others should get the job. All this whining about how Sen. Gore broke the rules by actually saying something, all this crying of unfair about the mildest attack you could imagine, is pathetic.

We think one reason for the fuss is that Sen. Gore is on to something. The Democrats, including the candidates on that debating platform, do have a problem in persuading voters that they are not given to foreign policy isolationism and retreat and that they are for a strong defense capacity. Some of them also have a problem in overcoming the strong impression that they don't know anything about the subject, have never given it two minutes' sustained thought before. That Sen. Gore, no hawk by a long shot in these matters, should be considered hawkish by comparison among these candidates and thought to represent some kind of rightish tinge tells you how far the nominees as a group have strayed in the other direction.

It is said in rebuttal that Sen. Gore on these matters isn't really all that different himself. Fine: let's hear about it. Why not go at it on the subjects he has raised? Why not have a real debate, a scorcher, among the candidates on who knows what's going on in national security affairs, on who has something credible to say, as distinct from just saying how naughty Ronald Reagan has been and how unsporting it is of Al Gore to stray from protocol? It is political, they complain of him. Imagine that: a presidential candidate doing something political! His opponents should stop protesting and answer.