AUSTIN -- Watching our homeboy George Dubya as he wends his way -- somewhat unsteadily -- toward the presidency is a nerve-racking procedure. Face it, our reputation is on the line along with the governor's. All of us know that 20 million Texans can't be brought to agree on anything, including whether the guys who died at the Alamo were heroes or fools. Nevertheless, we are all being painted with the Bush brush, so whenever he makes a cake of himself, all of us get the blame ("Those Texans, so ignorant.'')

Relatively speaking, Bush is one of our better representatives on the national scene. In Washington, which seems to have been deeply scarred by LBJ's occasional lack of couth, we are still regarded as a tribe of Visigoths. ("And then, he lifted his shirt and showed us the scar!'') Every time Gov. Preston Smith, who had a terminal West Texas accent, went on television, I used to wince: "Our biggest problem after this hurricane is all the day-brees we got lyin' around.'' So, Dubya Bush doesn't seem like anyone we'd have to blush for.

But one national columnist, writing this week about how Bush favors the concealed weapons law -- and the amendment to the law that allows concealed weapons to be carried in church -- wrote, "Apparently Texans feel so naked without their guns that they cannot even take time off to pray without the reassurance of their little metal friends nestled somewhere warmly on their persons.'' Another columnist decided not long ago to blame all 20 million of us for "... bloodthirsty criminal justice officials. ... Texas, where liberals are required to carry visas and compassion is virtually illegal ... a state perfectly willing to execute the retarded and railroad the innocent ... by far the most backward state in the nation when it comes to capital punishment ..." etc.

So when Bush commits a gaffe, we all look bad, which brings us to the unfortunate matter of Jean Poutine, who is not the prime minister of Canada.

Some joker from a Canadian radio comedy show told Bush he had been endorsed by "Prime Minister Poutine of Canada." Where upon Bush thanked the prime minister for his support and said how important our neighbors to the north are to us all. Unfortunately, Poutine is a form of Canadian junk food made with potatoes, cheese and brown gravy (sounds awful). Granted, you can't find a quorum of Texans who know who the prime minister of Canada is, so this sounds at first like another one of those stupid "gotcha" quizzes. But any Texan who's ever been involved in national politics does know that no foreign head of state would ever make an endorsement in either a primary or a general election.

Ever heard the phrase "that's an internal political matter"? If a head of state were to violate this long-standing diplomatic tradition, it would be a matter for stiff notes between state departments, apologies demanded -- for all I know, breaks threatened in diplomatic relations and ambassadors recalled. It would be a whale of a flap. Why didn't Bush know that? True, the United States has been known to favor one side or the other in a foreign election. Among other memorable episodes, we worked to defeat Salvador Allende in Chile in '70s, with the usual dubious results. But we do things like that covertly; we don't have the president instructing citizens of other countries on how he wants them to vote. Think of the ruckus.

Molly Ivins is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2000 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.