I was truly surprised by The Post's editorial opposing the line-item veto {May 17}. Rarely does The Post bury its head in the sand and ignore a problem as much as it did here.

First, conservatives do recognize that a Democratic president would have the same veto power. That's obvious. Yet that is another plus, as it would increase the pressure on the Democrat to exercise the line-item veto power to cut ''pork'' out of federal expenditures and balance the budget, instead of blaming Congress.

As an alternative, the editorial suggests a return to the ''traditional system'' of one subject, one veto. Clearly that would work, but how does The Post suggest accomplishing it? Voluntarily? This ignores the problem -- which is that our representatives take care of each other's pet pork projects by attaching them to unrelated bills. Only a line-item veto would force a return to the one subject, one veto system.

Unfortunately, our current system of government does not work. We ask our president to be responsible for leading and governing our country within the checks and balances of our three-branch system, but we don't give him the requisite authority. Over the years, the presidency has been emasculated by a Congress that is omnipotent but incapable of making tough choices.

The line-item veto is the only answer to lead us back to fiscal responsibility.

WILLIAM C. EACHO III Bethesda