Utahns can't be blamed for feeling some disappointment that Salt Lake lawyer Harold Christensen wasn't nominated to become U.S. attorney general.

But the disappointment should be short-lived. After all, Christensen is still in line for the No. 2 post in the Department of Justice. Besides, former Pennsylvania Gov. Richard Thornburgh - the man President Reagan has chosen to replace Edwin Meese - seems to have what it takes to win quick confirmation and restore the Justice Department's now-clouded image.A Republican moderate who has spent almost two decades as a lawyer and nationally known politician, Thornburgh has emerged scandal-free, with a reputation for unquestioned integrity, and high marks from both political parties.

As U.S. attorney for Western Pennsylvania for six years, he gained a reputation as a tough prosecutor against organized crime and corrupt public officials. As head of the Justice Department's criminal division under President Ford, he created the Public Integrity Section to root out malfeasance in in government and also increased the independence of U.S. attorneys around the country.

If there's anything the Reagan administration does not need during its last months, it is another bruising fight over a major nomination. Thornburgh certainly seems to fill the bill on this score.

One final point: Though Vice President Bush has made no firm promises, he has not ruled out the possibility of the new attorney general's staying on in his administration. So if Bush captures the White House, the Senate could be confirming an attorney general who can be expected to spend more than just a few months in Washington.