THE UNITED STATES shunned the inauguration of post-Ceausescu Romania's first elected president the other day. This jarring note was struck for the necessary purpose of conveying American repugnance at President Ion Iliescu's use of the miners to break up an anti-government demonstration. Mr. Iliescu, a former Communist who has found it difficult to break with Communist ways, conceded that excesses had taken place in the ''public order restoration process'' but, unconvincingly, ''unequivocally dissociated'' himself from these excesses and had the effrontery to say he would not hesitate to call up the miners again.
The company of 24 Western nations that have banded together to ease the democratic transformation of Eastern Europe has suspended major aid and cooperation with Romania until the situation there looks up. Perhaps this will help concentrate the attention of President Iliescu and others in the National Salvation Front and of the elements in the army and police that have yet to commit themselves to new ways. There is a striking contrast between the openness expected of a democracy and the secrecy in which large public decisions in Romania are still being made. There is a further, appalling contrast between the respect expected for dissent and the violent crushing of opposition, outside the law, that has been seen in the streets of Bucharest.
One feature of public life in Romania that cries to be clarified is the state of the press and particularly Romania Libera, the single independent opposition newspaper. Its editor, Petra Bacanu, had been condemned to death by the old regime for trying to start an unauthorized paper. Under the new regime, the paper is being published but on a government press. This had made it easy for the government to interrupt publication and distribution; the miners, while they were in town, shut the paper down.
To be truly independent, Romania Libera needs its own press. That means the Romanian government must grant it the right to own one. It also means that Americans should respond to editor Bacanu, who has been in Washington seeking the means to acquire one. It is one thing to call for Romania to make the political space for press freedom. It is another to help provide the resources to make press freedom real.