AUSTIN, Texas -- President Bush may not be dumb, but he sure does think the rest of us are.

You have to assume your audience is a bunch of borderline morons to tell as many whoppers as he does. True, short-term memory loss is creeping up on a lot of us, but even I can remember what Bush told us about why we had to invade Iraq.

There was about a rationale a week, but the main contenders were because: (A) Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and (B) links to Al Qaeda, so the WMD might get into terrorist hands. The supposed Saddam Hussein-Al Qaeda connection was so often trumpeted that by the time the war started, 70 percent of Americans believed Saddam Hussein was behind 9-11.

Last week, Donald Rumsfeld admitted he had never seen any credible evidence there was a link between Saddam and Al Qaeda. Last week, the Duelfer Report, written by our top weapons inspector, said Saddam not only had no weapons of mass destruction, but also that most of them had been destroyed shortly after the first Gulf War. The report also said both the U.N. inspections and the sanctions against Iraq had been resoundingly successful, that Saddam was becoming weaker and weaker. This is the report Bush had the cheek to quote during the debate last week as a source for his contention that Saddam had the "means, materials and intent" to develop WMD.

The Duelfer Report specifically shows that Iraq had neither the means nor the materials and that Saddam Hussein was slipping ever further away from his intent to create same. How dumb does he think we are?

He's also pulled out the old chestnut about "my opponent voted in the Senate to increase taxes 98 times." (Remember when he did that to Al Gore every 10 minutes on the theory that someone is bound to be dumb enough to believe it?) Kerry voted to increase taxes one time, in 1993. That was the Clinton tax package that increased taxes mostly on the very wealthy, although it did also increase taxes on Social Security benefits for middle-income retirees, according to The New York Times. But that is not 98 votes. How dumb does Bush think we are?

I especially enjoyed this gem: "And yet, think where we are. Added 1.9 million new jobs in the last 13 months." Excuse me? The new employment numbers came out just before the debate -- 95,000 new jobs last month, not even enough to keep up with the 150,000 newbies who come into the labor market every month. In other words, a net job loss of 55,000 in September, for a grand total of nearly 1 million jobs lost under Bush. How dumb does he think we are?

Also in the lies/damn lies category, how nice that 75 percent of "key members" of Al Qaeda have been captured, according to Bush. According to independent terrorism experts, the figure has no meaning at all.

As detailed in intelligence reports from around the globe, Al Qaeda has gained strength since 9-11, with our invasion of Iraq acting as its recruiting poster. Further, the network is now more widespread and contains more discrete cells, so the leadership is all over the world. What we need most to catch them is the cooperation of other nations (see below).

At one point during the debate, Bush shot out of his seat, so eager was he to point out the terrible blunder by John Kerry in failing to acknowledge the contribution of Britain and Poland in Iraq. How dreadful, scolded Bush. How do you think you're going to get any allies to go along with you in the future if you don't even acknowledge their help?

How right he is! And how well he should know. Bush quite notoriously failed to thank any of our allies in the Afghan War during his triumphal 2002 State of the Union Address, an insult that left the parties in question quite frosty.

I'm not saying that's why France and Germany wouldn't go along with us in Iraq -- they may have had a few other reasons -- but NATO did send another 3,500 troops just to help with the Afghan election. Always nice to see George W. Bush giving someone else lessons in diplomatic politesse and finesse.

My favorite Bush line: "Freedom is on the march. Tomorrow, Afghanistan will be voting for a president. And Iraq will be having free elections."

Elections were held in Afghanistan under U.N. supervision (see above for helpful advice on being courteous), and reports suggest it went well. Glad to hear it and about time something did, since the warlords are still in charge of most of the country and opium production is at record high levels.

And freedom is on the march in Iraq, all right. According to Bush, a few remnants of the Ba'ath Party and some international terrorists are responsible for all the suicide bombers, car bombs, mines, rocket attacks, etc. According to our own polls, 86 percent of Iraqis want us out of there either yesterday or ASAP. The insurgency is growing by the day. How dumb does he think we are?

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 2004 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.