TAKE IT from us: It's one thing for a doctor to hit a goose with a golf club and quite another for a president to hit a rabbit with a canoe paddle. In the first place, you're talking here about the difference between a prosecutable offense and a presidential prerogative almost certainly covered by executive privilege, especially when the privilege is invoked in self-defense. Unfortunately, since brandishing a canoe paddle at a sea-borne attack rabbit is one of the few questionable activities Richard Nixon was never charged with (did that coverup work?), there is no authoritative body of legal literature to consult as to whether a sitting (in a canoe he could not have been standing) president is subject to court proceedings for such an offense.

But we strongly doubt it. Who would be offended, anyway, except possibly a bunch of other aquatic rabbits? The real question is, as always when these crazies charge the White House gates or take off after Canoe One, how did the Secret Service let the mortal menace, a kind of Jaws with Ears, get so close to the only president we have? And what was this thing? A swimming rabbit, we are told, with some kind of grudge, a really mean rabbit, assailing Mr. Carter without provocation in Plains last April. You have to ask yourself: What did Mr. Carter ever do to rabbits? It's true, we can't think of anything special he ever did for rabbits either, but then these are tight money times and everyone has to cut back -- the president has said so himself repeatedly.

Was there in fact ever such a creature or an episode? Was it (as they would say in "Peanuts") something else, perhaps a Republican, in a rabbit suit? Never mind the photographic evidence Mr. Carter has said he has. In one respect, anyhow, we are reminded of the goose-on-the-golf-links saga: There is something damned fishy about this story of the rabbit who got away.