Being a pundit can be a lot of fun. You can be glib and wry, get in lots of rhetorical "winks" at your readers and make the commonplace seem outrageous. I only wish that pundits such as Haynes Johnson {"Meese's Chronic Forgetfulness," Feb. 5} could be required to walk a mile in the other guy's moccasins.

Johnson says that a computer search "of Washington Post files since 1981 produced 30 pages of printouts containing fragments from 47 articles in which Meese's failure to remember critical questions figured prominently."

Well, the following numbers are at least as interesting as his. During the period examined by Johnson, Meese was mentioned in some 3,400 Washington Post articles, editorials and editorial columns. Now, let's see: Johnson is focusing on 47 articles out of 3,400 -- that's about 1.4 percent of the total number of articles written on him. A highly selective way of viewing a person's record, is it not?

But as long as we're looking at numbers, let's look at some your columnist did not examine. It might be interesting for your readers to ponder how well Johnson might do in recalling conversations if he were in the attorney general's shoes. Meese participates in nearly 3,500 meetings a year. He personally accepts or places some 2,200 telephone calls each year (and his office receives nearly 85,000 phone calls a year). About a million and a half pages of documents are housed in the office of the attorney general, covering un unbelievably broad spectrum of issues from a wide range of sources.

As any responsible executive will tell you, and as every Cabinet secretary will certainly tell you, it is impossible to read and digest every word contained in such a staggering volume of paper. Frankly, the attorney general's ability to retain a lot of important information is exceptional.

Your readers might find it amusing to imagine how Haynes Johnson might fare if given a test to determine his ability to recall every aspect and nuance of the many subjects on which he has expressed an opinion in the 500 or so articles he has written for The Post these past seven years. How well would his integrity or veracity hold up if he were judged on his ability to recall all this and it turned out to be something less than absolute? How well would he do if required to remember every explicit detail of thousands of meetings and phone calls in a single year, rather than a few hundred columns over seven years?

One final note: Johnson cites "one {Iran-contra} committee member" who "characterized Meese's lengthy private depositions" as failing to know or remember "340 times." Isn't it obvious that if someone does not know about a particular matter that there's nothing to remember? And why has Johnson "forgotten" to cite the number of times Attorney General Meese answered fully and with precision questions put to him on the subject? I can assure you they dwarf the number of instances where recollection was said to be dim.

The sarcastic wit of a pundit can be a devastating thing in the hands of a skilled writer. A little empathy would make a piece less fun to read, but much fairer to the target of the attack. -- Mark R. Levin The writer is chief of staff of the Office of the Attorney General.