There has been a lot of complaint about George Bush's campaigning techniques this week, most of it deserved. Mr. Bush, in assuming a number of improbable identities -- pretend jock, pretend longshoreman, even pretend campaign sleaze -- has not been at his most attractive. However, the aspect of it that has most baffled us is his apparent capacity (or is it in fact an effort?) to outdo Mr. Reagan as a garbler of facts and a misstater of other people's positions. The other candidates, all three of them, have made their larger and smaller factual errors, but none has been quite so thoroughgoing about it, as it seems, as Mr. Bush. This simply could not be because he is unintelligent or uninformed, because he is neither. So what is going on then?

We're afraid the answer presented itself in a story in The New York Times yesterday in a statement by Peter Teeley, the vice president's press secretary. According to The Times, Mr. Teeley, challenged on the veracity of something Mr. Bush had claimed in his televised exchange with Geraldine Ferraro two Thursdays ago, gave the following revealing explanation of the vice president's position on the matter: " want during a debate, and 80 million people hear it,' he continued. If reporters then document that a candidate spoke untruthfully, 'so what?' He said, 'Maybe 200 people read it or 2,000 or 20,000.'

We are trying to remember when we heard as open and unembarrassed an expression of cynicism and contempt for the American people.