We received a very gracious letter from Mrs. Jesse Helms the other day. Actually, graciousness was only part of it. The letter was also heart-rending and very nearly made us weep. "Dear Friend," it began, "You have been such a loyal supporter and good friend of Jesse's over the years that I felt I could call on you for help." But, of course--if not us, then who? But Mrs. Helms, evidently overcome by emotion, here almost breaks down, barely managing to choke back an epistolary sob. "Frankly," she says, "I don't know where to begin. I can't tell you how hurt I am by the vicious misrepresentations constantly being spread about Jesse."

Well, when you hear some of these misrepresentations you too are going to be furious. As Mrs. Helms observes, fighting over the issues is one thing --"But, when they attack his character and call him things like the 'Prince of Darkness,' I have to draw the line." She surmises that all this frightful abuse is an attempt to defeat her husband for reelection because he has been fighting the liberals and trying to bolster the national security. For instance: "Jesse has always supported strengthening our nation's defenses. He opposed Jimmy Carter's cancellation of the MX-Missile, the Trident Submarine, and our nuclear aircraft carriers."

We were beginning to get quite worked up over this ourselves, and--who knows?--might even have ponied up a check in response to Mrs. Helms' poignant appeal, had we not in the nick of time providentially recalled that Jimmy Carter had actually not cancelled either the MX missile or the Trident Submarine. He in fact went forward on both of them. And once our highly agitated emotions had settled down, we reflected that maybe Mrs. Helms' husband was having all this trouble in his reelection campaign precisely because his North Carolina constituents were tired of his attacks on presidents and other people for things they weren't doing in the first place--for further information on this Mrs. Helms might even want to consult with Mrs. Martin Luther King Jr.

So, drying our eyes, we put Mrs. Helms' touching solicitation letter aside. We don't know how to tell her, but we might as well be blunt about it: the check isn't in the mail.