In his crusade for national betterment, Jesse Jackson has many suggestions, including this: If you see George Will drowning, throw him an anvil. He does not say quite that, but that is his gist.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Jackson recently addressed in Sacramento a $500-a-plate luncheon that ''was closed to the press, but some reporters listened to the remarks and tape-recorded them from an adjacent partitioned-off area.'' Jackson berated the media for portraying minorities in a way ''designed to poison the minds of the common people.'' The Times reported that Jackson ''singled out conservative columnist George Will for special criticism.''

Jackson said, ''He is more dangerous to us than Jimmy the Greek and Al Campanis.'' The Times reported that ''Jackson did not elaborate.''

I will elaborate. But first a point about the niceties of slander. Jackson has kissed Yasser Arafat and hailed Fidel Castro, so I am content to be excluded from the ambit of his affections. But if he wants to call me a racist, he should have the courage of his convictions and do it publicly. If he wants to smear people privately, he should rent rooms with thicker partitions.

Jackson spoke two days after appearing on ABC's ''This Week,'' during which I asked him these three questions:

''You said in a recent debate that since 1973 we have lost 38 million jobs. In fact, today 27 million more Americans are working than were working in 1973. In what sense have we lost the jobs?''

''As president, would you support measures such as the G-7 measures in the Louvre accords?''

''Last month in the Kennedy Center debate, Mr. Jackson, you said that 58 cents out of every federal dollar is being spent on military buildup. Since the defense budget is about 28 cents out of the federal dollar, in what sense is your statement true?''

His answer to the first question was that some people are ''working at lower wages'' and ''we've lost workers who once were driving trucks who are now driving {sic} hamburgers.'' Then he whipped up a verbal meringue, mostly air and references to ''Wall Street analyses and these humongous numbers,'' airline deregulation and the minimum wage.

His answer to the second question was, ''Explain that.'' His answer to the third was slightly to fudge his falsehood, saying 55 cents of every federal tax dollar is spent on ''military-related matters.''

In Sacramento, Jackson told his mostly black audience that the media spread negative images of blacks, and that I am especially ''dangerous'' to ''us.'' Actually, he is contributing to negative stereotypes by his implicit demand for exemption from standards to which white candidates are held.

People who say the reason Jackson cannot be elected is that he is black should ask themselves this: How many candidates spout Third World rhetoric and fraternize with anti-American dictators and terrorists and then do well in presidential politics? Being black is his advantage as a professional campaigner: Suppose he were a white minister from Chicago attempting to make the presidency his first elective office.

Because he is black, his white rivals sit silently beside him, leaving his foolishness unremarked. The real racism in this campaign is the unspoken assumption that it is unreasonable to expect a black candidate to get rudimentary things right.

Jackson is doing something for which there are ample precedents. He is doing what Strom Thurmond, George Wallace, Norman Thomas, Henry Wallace, Robert La Follette and others have done. He is using the process of presidential politics to alter the nation's conversation, agenda and patterns of participation.

But because he is not going to be on the Democratic ticket, there is a journalistic question of what coverage of him is appropriate. The answer is: lots of it.

Coverage should be proportional to his support measured in polls, which is considerable. Coverage is merited by his potential to influence events, which is substantial. He is saying things that many people like to hear, and the fact that some of the things are silly just gives journalism the additional task of tidying up after him.

Before Jackson does too much more complaining about the treatment of him in the media, he should consider this. Jimmy the Greek got obliterated because he said dumb and offensive things, although they were said in a crude attempt to praise blacks. Jackson said dumb and malicious things about Jews and then collected matching funds for his nonstop campaigning. He should be thankful for double standards.