In Philip Geyelin's column on the Friday op-ed page, Secretary of State George Shultz's name was inadvertently dropped from one sentence, causing a quotation from him to be attributed to Attorney General Edwin Meese. The passage affected should have read as follows: "Meese said he couldn't remember what the vice president 'might have said.' But Shultz told the same commission: 'I felt at that meeting that Cap was against it and that I was against it and everybody else in the room was in favor.' He went on: 'I was very concerned about it, and I expressed myself as forcefully as I could. . . .'" (Published 1/16/88)

George Bush was (and still is) saying a whole lot of things that don't quite hang together concerning his role in the administration's arms-for-hostages dealing with Iran. He pictures himself as a close presidential confidant. But he was ''out of the loop'' a lot of the time. He ''stood solidly'' with the president. But he had conveyed ''reservations,'' but mostly in private to the president. They were confidential -- even though some had been ''testified to.'' He was flat out against ''striking bargains with terrorists.'' But neither he nor the president saw the Iran deal as an arms-for-hostages swap because, strictly speaking, the arms weren't going to the hostage-holders.

Now you can argue that these sorts of discrepancies and inconsistencies go with a vice president's lot, which is not an altogether happy one. The tests of responsibility and accountability are pretty murky. But that's precisely why the vice president's performance in the Iran-contra affair strikes me as less important as a measure of his judgment and competence than the way he has dug himself into a deeper hole by his accounting of it. By offering alibis that don't hold up in the face of readily available public testimony, he has raised a whole new set of questions having to do with presidential credentials.

The point is not how many meetings the vice president attended at which the Iran initiative was discussed. The critical decision-making took place in mid-January 1986, and the crucial point that Bush has made consistently is that he was unaware at the time that Secretary of State George Shultz and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger vigorously opposed the whole idea. Had he known, he wrote in a recent campaign autobiography, he would have ''asked the President to call a meeting'' of the National Security Council and the president ''might have seen the project in a different light, as a gamble doomed to fail.'' Bush, then, might have saved the day -- had he but known.

But Bush had to have known there was a meeting of the NSC on Jan. 7. According to both the report of the congressional investigators and the report of the Tower Commission, set up by the president to investigate the Iran-contra affair, he was there. He now suggests it couldn't have been a ''full'' NSC meeting without the FBI director and the Joint Chiefs.

That's a quibble. The FBI director isn't even a statutory member of the NSC. By law, the full members, in addition to the vice president, are the president and the secretaries of state and defense. All four were on hand. So was the CIA director (the late William Casey), who has advisory status. Beyond the hard core, the president can invite anybody he wants. Attorney General Edwin Meese, for example, sat in.

And Meese remembers that meeting. It lasted one hour and 20 minutes, he told the Tower Commission, and ''it was very clear'' that Shultz and Weinberger ''were opposed to {the Iranian initiative}, that George {Shultz} felt this was at odds with our policy in regard to terrorism, that it could hurt us with our allies or with friends around the world. Cap was concerned primarily about the terrorism policy.''

Meese said he couldn't remember what the vice president ''might have said.'' But: ''I felt at that meeting that Cap was against it and that I was against it and everybody else in the room was in favor.'' He went on: ''I was very concerned about it, and I expressed myself as forcefully as I could. That is, I didn't just sort of rattle these arguments off. I was intense. The president was well aware of my views. I think everybody was well aware of my views.''

But Bush wasn't? Apparently not. Responding to questions raised in a column by Mary McGrory, Bush said this week: ''I do not remember any strenuous objections. . . . I am sure I would have remembered it.'' Well, memory loss does seem to happen to people caught up in the Iran-contra affair. But if that's the case, it hardly works in favor of the impression the vice president would seem to want us to have of an active, attentive apprentice to the presidency these past seven years, giving -- and getting -- sound advice.