AUSTIN, Texas -- In the long view of history -- always a consoling perspective at a time like this -- the 2000 presidential campaign most likely will rank as a giant waste of time.

Our future depends on The Stuff They Wouldn't Talk About -- economic globalization, global warming, the spread of AIDS, the need for some social control of new technologies and the corruption of our political system. Al and Tipper Gore's big smooch got more ink.

Having set the proper tone of superiority here -- it is now obligatory for journalists to drip disdain on the democratic process as we assist in deforming it -- may I say that I'm mad as hell? Not only has this been a stupid campaign, but it has been a deceitful one.

Gore's reputation as a fibber and an exaggerator is apparently set in stone -- despite the fact that he never claimed to have invented the Internet (although he assisted at its creation), that he was in fact a model for the lead character in "Love Story" (the stiff), that he never claimed he had discovered Love Canal and that he did in fact have to work hard on his father's farm in Tennessee when he was a boy. That's the way it goes in Medialand.

Meanwhile, Texans have been enjoying the surreal experience of discovering that we live in Paradise and that we owe it all to George W. Bush, the fifth-most-important official in the state.

Now, the fact is that our state has a rotten record and always has had a rotten record, and that's a consequence of public policy here. We're a low-tax, low-service state, so we rank poorly on everything that government does.

Our public health care stinks; our criminal justice system is deeply racist (not to mention that it encourages lawyers to catch up on much-needed sleep); and we have a few other problems that would curl hair in someplace like Iowa. Mostly, people here don't much notice any of this, being used to it. And besides, we're Texans, so we're actually proud of it.

Then along comes this campaign, and suddenly our governor is telling the rest of the country that we lead the nation in education and that he personally is responsible for this astonishing turn of events; that everyone in Texas has full access to health care; that each prisoner we fry has a competent lawyer; that the governor himself led the fight for a strong Patients' Bill of Rights; and that our air and water are crystal-clear under his environmentally friendly leadership.

(Actually, Bush never really made that last claim -- he just says the other guy is lying when he says Texas is real polluted, even though it's real polluted.)

When all this started, I used to tell people calmly: "Well, I think you ought to look at his record, because it's pretty clear, and you can make up your mind from that." Now I feel like standing out by the highway in the rain with a sign that says: "Don't Vote for George W. Bush -- He's Not Up to the Job."

I'm sorry -- the man is inadequate. You cannot slide through life on your daddy's name, turning in a poor performance in school and the military, and a distinctly questionable performance in the business world, loaf through a few years in baseball trading Sammy Sosa and then tell outrageous lies about your part-time performance in a powerless job. This is silly.

One of the few truly eerie things about W. is his inability to admit that he did it all on luck. Lots of people are born lucky in life, but they're not born blind to that fact. No one is asking him to feel guilty about it; awareness would suffice.

I've never found Bush ill-intentioned -- just oblivious. In fact, I suspect that he's rather easily touched by people with sadder lives than his own.

What Bush does not get is the connection between policy and results in real people's lives. He really thinks we'd be better off if most of government was done by charities. He thinks that nice corporate polluters will volunteer to cut down on filth. I know he's good at politics, but he is not interested in governing. It bores him; he has no attention span for it.

If this were just an election that was going to put a lightweight in the White House, I wouldn't feel so bad. We can survive that. But I'm not sure that we can survive what comes with Bush, or more precisely, what's behind him.

On Nov. 2, The Wall Street Journal ran a rather chilling article about the Business-Industry Political Action Committee, "an organization dedicated to keeping Congress in pro-business hands."

It was specifically about a congressional district in Kentucky where local and national business interests have organized to protect an incumbent who voted against the Patients' Bill of Rights. That's a simple fight: On one side you have the people, and on the other side you have the HMOs. So the HMOs are now buying that district.

Our political system is corrupted by money, and the only thing that George W. Bush wants to do about it is make it worse.

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.