RONALD REAGAN'S press relations have been among the best that we can remember of any president. This was not a foregone conclusion, and it surely has not been because his idealogy was secretly shared by the Washington media or because the media had some special affinity with him over the years.And it also has not been because of all that "management" and "manipulation" the people in our business always fear and often countenance. Rather, it has been owing in large part to Mr. Reagan's own easy affability as a campaigner and as a president and also, in large part, to that affability as it has been reflected in James S. Brady's personality and enterprise.

Mr. Brady had held, in many ways, the most visible (and thankless) job in Washington. The man better known as Jim, and even better known yet by the nickname he really loves -- "the Bear" -- came equipped with all the qualifications to do this impossible job: humor patience, wit, loyalty to the president and, fully consistent with that, an inclination as well as a capacity to get information to his restless, boisterous and not always very polite media charges. This, as precedent has shown, is not a job for the uptight or the grudge-holder or the secretive or the unforgiving; and Jim Brady had been the opposite of all these things.

As Mr. Brady lies wounded in George Washington Hospital, our gratification at his progress only partially mitigates our rage at the cruelty of his fate. A great man with a joke, a reader of serious (non-Washington) books and the inventor of a drink called "Captain Bear's Nightie Night" and of a corrosive meal known as "Goat Gap Texas Chili," Mr. Brady is clearly a fellow who has learned to enjoy a life apart from the grim, driven ways of high politics in this city. That, paradoxically, can mean the difference between someone who is good at one of these high-powered White House jobs and someone who is not. Mr. Brady has values and interests and joys outside and independent of the mad, workaday duties of serving as a president's press secretary. His capacity to convey these, and to reach back to them under pressure clearly have lent him a special credibility in his job. The president's press aide is a real man, a whole man and a fine man. What has happened to him is an unspeakable outrage.