PRESIDENT BUSH went out to Fairfax County the other day to throw his arm around Rep. Stan Parris (R-Va.) and try to give him some help in a hard-fought election. That was a big favor to a congressman who has done conspicuously little to help the president this autumn. The only important vote on which Mr. Parris has supported the president recently was the one that he cast against the civil rights bill.

It's not surprising that Mr. Parris voted against the budget compromise. Most of the House Republicans did the same thing, opposing both a Republican president who was struggling to get it enacted and their own party leadership.

The case of the textile bill was more peculiar. It was drastically protectionist legislation that would have raised costs substantially to consumers for the benefit of domestic textile and apparel producers. Mr. Parris's Eighth District has plenty of consumers and very few textile factories. Mr. Parris is evidently toying with the idea of running for governor again. But the textile bill would have destroyed the president's trade policy, and the White House fought it vehemently. Mr. Parris voted -- with the Democratic leadership and the most protectionist elements of the labor movement, against President Bush and his own district's interests -- first to pass the bill and then to override Mr. Bush's veto. Fortunately, the attempt to override failed.

Mr. Bush's support for Mr. Parris conveys the same disquieting suggestion as his effusive praise, three weeks earlier, of Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.). The president went to Raleigh to hold forth at gorge-raising length on the virtues of the senator, who is also in a tight race. At a time when Mr. Helms was working overtime to demolish the president's budget compromise, Mr. Bush buttered him up as "this champion of conviction" and a "watchdog of taxpayer money." If the speaker had been anyone but Mr. Bush, his audience would have suspected sarcasm.

These episodes involve more than textiles, budgets and routine electioneering. Both Mr. Helms and Mr. Parris have made race and racial attitudes central to their campaigns. Both carry on a consistent opposition to the rules of racial equity that most of the country accepts as fair and decent. The White House periodically complains that Mr. Bush isn't given adequate credit for his enlightened views on racial policy. But when he goes out of his way to embrace people like Mr. Helms and Mr. Parris, he cannot help raising doubts about his intentions.