Despite a dreary record of communist betrayal, Jimmy Carter declared during a May 22, 1977, presidential commencement address at the University of Notre Dame that "we are now free of that inordinate fear of communism." It took the brutal Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to change his mind in late 1979. . . . A certain amount of on-the-job training is to be expected of any president during his first term, but it ought not to involve such a fundamental issue as the nature and extent of the Soviet threat to freedom.

Nearly six year ago, a band of seemingly patriotic Sandinista revolutionaries overthrew the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua and promised the Organization of American States that they would hold free elections and establish a democratically pluralistic society.

Proving that hope usually triumphs over common sense, a majority of my colleagues voted in 1979 for millions of dollars of assistance to help the Sandinistas implement their revolution. I was one who joined in that hope with my vote. My learning period was accelerated in the few months following that vote.

Some of my colleagues are still hoping -- a hope that events ought to have dashed a long time ago. History indeed does repeat itself, and our trust and starry-eyed idealism have been exploited time and time again. So far we have survived our blunders. Not so some of our allies.

How many more misjudgments we will be permitted without mortally wounding freedom is a question I hope never has to be answered.