Let's look on the bright side. Maybe Gary Hart's reemergence will finally teach both parties how silly it is to let presidential candidates anoint themselves. Surely, good sense dictates that the party -- i.e., a convention of unpledged delegates -- determine who is best equipped to run on its platform and beat the other side's nominee.

The system we have now may be good theater, but it's lousy politics. It is also bad democracy. I never thought I would find myself yearning for back-room politics, but I do, I do . . . ALBERT MEISEL Chevy Chase

Gary Hart may have started yet another trend. Two months ago, Democrats were wondering which candidate would be the next to drop out of the 1988 presidential race amidst some degrading scandal. Now they may begin to ask each other who will be the next to return. Joe Biden, perhaps? Or will the Mondale-Ferraro team try again?

I hope that Mr. Hart, for his own sake, truly believes that "there is no shame in losing, only in quitting." Even the people to whom Hart vows to direct his new campaign will not allow the successful comeback of a man who, wrapped up in scandal, said seven months ago that he would not return. The Democrats, confused though they are, will certainly not allow Mr. Hart to sneak through their ranks and snatch the party's nomination.

Mr. Hart should do himself, his family and his party the favor of dropping out of this race -- for good. DAVID GALBRAITH Washington

What exactly are Gary Hart's aims in reentering the race for president? If his intentions are pure, his future does not look promising for the seat in the White House. If they are to pay off his supposed campaign debt, he will be directly diminishing the role of the presidential election, as well as the nation itself. Either way Mr. Hart's heart and political career may be broken by the summer of 1988.

Money. Most everyone is controlled by it, but when it becomes one's paramount motive in the most important election of the country, something is askew. The election is important not only to the United States but to the entire world. Being a superpower, America cannot afford the embarrassment of having a superficial potential president.

So, I say to Mr. Hart: Step aside. Let Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, Bruce Babbitt, etc., run their campaigns without needless opposition, and try again in '92. CAROLINE BRUCE Washington

What a pity Joe Biden is no longer in the race -- one can almost imagine Gary Hart leaping into the hut of the Seven Dwarfs and pronouncing himself Snow White.

Snow White he most definitely is not; the Democratic Party's Prince of Darkness and Defeat he may well be. There seems to be no end to Mr. Hart's self-centeredness. No end to his longing for matching funds -- an amount sure to pull him out of his poignant state of poverty. And no end to his refusal to accept responsibility for his continual problems.

The man gives us fair warnings and promises: no answers to questions about his personal life; no letup in his attacks on the media; and the carrot of new ideas, which he will take directly to the people, with no stops along the way.

It is ominous to behold a candidate of the opposing party bringing joy to the Republican camp. Ominous but, considering this man's history, not all that surprising. To political waters already muddy, Mr. Hart has added his own private stock of slime. BARBARA RICH Charlottesville

In response to David Broder's op-ed column of Dec. 17 {''When Ambition Overrides All Other Criteria''}, I must say that I am incredibly offended at his comparison of Gary Hart to Jesse Jackson.

Mr. Broder bases his analogy on the fact that neither can win, yet both persist in their presidential bids. The accepted wisdom is that Rev. Jackson can't win. This may, unfortunately, be true. I say "unfortunately" because whatever one may personally think of Rev. Jackson (and I do not happen to support his candidacy), the fact is that if he can't win, it's because he is black -- a sad statement about America, the land where everyone supposedly has a chance.

Mr. Hart, on the other hand, has persisted in a pattern of totally self-destructive and arrogant behavior. He entered the 1988 campaign well aware that his personal life was a matter of discussion and concern. Some of his own campaign staffers made him promise that he had reformed. And then he challenged the press to follow him, which it did. The press may have gone too far, but what person who truly wants to be president exhibits such self-threatening behavior?

If Mr. Hart can't win, it's because he has put himself in that situation. He had it all going into this campaign season: he was the front-runner, and he had the help of some of this country's most talented Democratic strategists, fund-raisers and campaign workers.

Everyone has the right to run for president, but Mr. Hart has blown his chance. And I resent the fact that the Democratic Party may suffer because Mr. Hart can't believe he isn't going to be president.

Mr. Jackson, on the other hand, is opening up the debate in this campaign to include the truly disenfranchised. One need only read the press accounts of his trips to Iowa and other midwestern states -- where you might not expect the Rainbow Coalition to have a natural constituency -- to know that he is reaching people in a way that he didn't last time around.

Finally, I'm really tired of reading in the press that we need Mario Cuomo, Bill Bradley, etc. The candidates who are in the race are a good, solid group. If one of these ''dream'' candidates were actually to enter the fray, then we would find reasons to criticize them as well. One of the ways in which people demonstrate their ability to govern this country is by putting together and overseeing a nationwide campaign. The system may not be perfect, but I'll choose it over anything else that's out there. SUSAN J. LEWIS Washington

As I drove to work the other day listening to the various morning radio shows once again making Gary Hart the butt of their jokes, I shared the amusement and contempt universally expressed by the hosts and their callers. Yet one emotion surfaced at last, and it remains with me still: anger. Anger that this man who represents the worst excesses of immaturity, selfishness, loose morals and disregard for others should think that the majority of people in this country are equally mediocre and will simply overlook his conduct in the past.

How dare he say that his failure to uphold even minimum standards of behavior in his personal life is trivial and that it is not an accurate gauge of his character? Mr. Hart lied to the public and broke promises made to the one person whose trust he should hold sacred above that of all others: his wife. Somehow he fooled enough people along the way to get himself elected as a U.S. senator, but now he is fooling no one. It is fitting that he will incur the most appropriate punishment a man of his colossal arrogance and ego deserves: total embarrassment at the hands of a public that holds him in contempt. MALCOLM H. VISSER Alexandria

How dumb does Gary Hart think the public is? The question is not whether a candidate has the right to shield his private life from the public. The question is how the public can accept a proven liar and phony as a presidential candidate. If Mr. Hart becomes the Democratic nominee, everyone in my family will vote Republican for the first time ever.

And to respond to Lee Hart, the press didn't cause you the pain -- he did. BETSY JOHNSON Washington

My father's simple solution to the traffic problem would solve it, but can't be used. He'd say: "Take all the cars off the road that aren't paid for." His old-fashioned idea of saving up first and then buying went out the window when the installment plan and buying on credit became the American way.

So it is with the Gary Hart situation. Can one use the old (outworn?) standards in our current moral climate? Is it hypocritical to condemn him when our culture is so permissive and overtly "sexy"? TV ads sell beer, perfume, cereal and jeans with provocative poses and meaningful glances. Where did the AIDS epidemic and all the children born to single mothers come from? Penthouse and Playboy magazines, pornography and X-rated videos have all contributed to the change in mores, with self-gratification the way to go.

So maybe Mr. Hart is the man to lead present-day America. Maybe things like a rational foreign policy, a better medical system, no more wars, adequate housing, cutting the deficits, educating our people to know their history and the world, eradicating the drug menace -- you name it -- are what's important now. I grew up before World War II (I was a college senior and nearly 21 on Pearl Harbor Day), and it's hard to keep up with the changes and adjust to them. MARY WITT Bethesda