Bad News From France? Our longtime ally France, in case you haven't noticed, is going down the tubes. That's what Robert J. Perkins, treasurer of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, is telling 310,000 of his closest friends in a blistering letter written on the stationery of the Hotel Prince DeGalles in Paris.

"I can imagine my eyes still burning from the clouds of tear gas that seem to be a regular occurrence," he said, noting "the volatile and ominous atmosphere I felt in Paris this morning."

France "is literally flat broke," he said in the letter, dated Aug. 3. "France's socialist government has imposed a series of economic regulations that drastically reduce the freedoms of the French people," he continued. It has become "almost as difficult to leave France as it is to leave the Soviet Union . . . . Today the air seemed charged with rage. The entire city felt as though it was going to explode with anger."

The news gets worse. "This catastrophe might one day happen at home . . . . We are dangerously close to seeing our country go down the same path as France." How could this happen? If the Democrats were elected, of course.

If Perkins' observations on the Paris scene don't ring true to summer visitors to France, there's a reason. He didn't see any clouds of tear gas. He imagined them, according to a spokesman.

Perkinsit Paris, but wrote the letter with fund-raising experts in Washington and had it printed and mailed in London under the letterhead of the Paris hotel.

Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, defended the letter as hrtain flair. Each of our letters is written with some strength of the point of view of the writer," he said.