IT'S ALWAYS heartening to learn that some portion of the world's idiocy has been exposed or removed, as it was last week by Montgomery County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist. The idiocy in question was that of Robert Earl Lee, who besides the distinction of having been a classmate of James Earl Carter at the Naval Academy, came to local attention last February by changing his name to Roberto Eduardo Leon, Mr. Lee had the bright idea that by becoming Mr. Leon he would thus be eligible-as a member of a minority-for preferential treatment under Montgomery County's affirmative action program. Mr Gilchrist disagreed, to the point of disallowing Mr. Lee's, or Leon's, claim, and further stating that from now on anyone else wishing to pull such a stunt will have to appear before an employee's committee and go through an administrative wringer.

All this naturally has come as a deep disappointment to Mr. (let's call him) Lee. He had had this brainstorm, after all, had even gone as far as speaking a few words of Spanish to his colleagues at the county Environmental Protection Department. Most ingenious of all, he had grounds for the name change-his grandfather had been "of Spanish origin," and he had taken Spanish in high school. On such a basis someone could claim to be half Italian for having studied Latin; and Mr. Lee would undoubtedly approve. He was angry at Mr. Gilchrist's decision, calling it "subjective": "And I thought government was to run by objective means."

Of course, Mr. Lee made it rather difficult for the government to run by objective means by deliberately abusing the system. Affirmative action is hardly a breeze to employ under any circumstances, and when a conniver comes along with a sense of fairness like Mr. Lee's, all he accomplishes is to give opponents of affirmative action a chortle or two, and a few decentminded officials a headache or two, but nothing serious.Evidently he thought the world was as eager to accept nonsense as he was eager to provide it.