YOU MAY BE WONDERING, with good reason, just what it is about Patrick J. Delaney that makes Presidents want to appoint him to various high-salaried positions despite his apparent lack of qualifications. Mr Delaney, a lawyer who worked for several years as a stockbroker, headed the New York Democrats for Nixon in 1972. Last week it was learned that President Carter is seriously considering appointing him to the $47,500-a-year post of commissioner of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission - despite the opposition of Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus. This calls to mind a similar situation that occured last year when President Ford nominated Mr. Delaney, then a White House aide, for a seat on the Securities and Exchange Commission. That appointment was resisted by then-SEC Chairman Roderick Hills and several senators who said that Mr. Delaney wasn't qualified for the job. Confirmation hearings for the post were never held. But just before leaving office President Ford again nominated Mr. Delaney for the post, in effect bequeathing the job-for-Delaney campaign to President Carter. The President, apparently seeking the route of least controversy, reportedly is about to award Mr. Delaney the Susquehanna River Commission post, which doesn't require Senate confirmation.

Why all this effort for Patrick Delaney? Well, we think the answer has a lot to do with his father's being James J. Delaney, the New York Democrat who is chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee - the committee that decided which bills go to the House floor.

Now, we really didn't expect President Carter to follow strictly his oft-stated campaign pledge to make every appointment solely on merit. But naming Patrick Delaney to this post is about as worthy of support as naming him to the SEC was. The Susquehanna River Basin cover 27,000 square miles in the three states of New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland. The river is an important source of drinking water for numerous cities including Philadelphia, along the route and is important to the ecology of the Chesapeake Bay: It contributes 60 per cent of the bay's fresh water. Surely, the commissioner's post should be reserved for someone knowledgeable in the water-resources field.