GARY HART got back into the Democratic race on Tuesday seeming neither to remember nor to be especially interested in the reasons that he had got out. It wasn't so much that anything had happened since then as that he had merely changed his mind. Here he was again, addressing the voters in New Hampshire. It was that simple. His message was the same. Boiled down, it was this: He knows himself to be uniquely well qualified to be president. He believes his opinions about what should be done are invaluable and that it was a shame none of the other candidates promoted them in his absence. So here he is. In perfect Nixon pitch, he said of his assembled family: "We are together on this decision because we love this country and because we are not quitters." Mr. Hart made many references to the American people and his faith in them and to how he was trusting them to decide what should happen now. Yet for all these repeated bows to the popular will, there was something distinctly elitist and even patronizing in his words. If elected he would like only this for his epitaph, Mr. Hart said: "He educated the people."

The people may not need such education. They have already taught the candidate a thing or two themselves. One is that they get plenty sore when a politician lies to them or systematically puts them on about who he is and what his personal values are and how he thinks about and deals with other people. Another is that they may be politically a little flighty, being turned on by a candidate one day and turned off by him the next, but they are not easy marks. Gary Hart has risen spectacularly in the polls -- by 10 points a day at one time in 1984 -- and plummeted just as fast. He has reason to know that the voters may want what they think of as leadership but that they don't necessarily regard themselves as just so many tenth-graders awaiting instruction.

Clearly Gary Hart had never quite made up his mind to get out of the race and never entirely resolved what had happened to him. Though he speaks of having made mistakes, all along he has continued to muse resentfully on the press' intrusions upon the private lives of public officials. In this he is not alone. There has been a lot of unease expressed about the media's pursuit of the story of Mr. Hart's womanizing, and some people think the whole thing was an outrage or an irrelevance or both. We think it was neither. Mr. Hart presented himself in his campaign not just as the bearer of certain ideas; he suggested, as part of his argument as to why he should be president, that he held a familiar cluster of values as well. Exposing the falsity of these was well within the realm of legitimate campaign reporting.

We happen to think that some -- not all, but some -- of those ideas Gary Hart keeps talking about are pretty good, not perhaps as momentous or original as he would have you think, but pretty good nonetheless. And we think too, as he does, that they are worth talking about. But he is not the only candidate equipped or inclined to do so -- nor are position papers really an antidote or an answer to the trouble Mr. Hart got in last spring. We expect that -- if he can -- he still has to address directly and plausibly those questions having to do with his behavior and his candor with the public before he can hope to get anywhere. This the newly reinstated candidate most emphatically did not do yesterday.