AUSTIN, Texas -- As I.F. Stone used to say, "All governments lie," so that's no shockeroo. What's peculiar is the reaction in the media.  

        -- You may recall that when even the administration finally admitted Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction (with that adorable video of President Bush on his hands and knees searching under sofas in the Oval Office for the missing WMD -- oh, it was so amusing. Eight hundred American dead.), we were treated to the following rationales:

        1) Didn't make any difference because Saddam Hussein was a really, really bad guy anyway.

        He was, of course, and it was always the only decent rationale for getting rid of him. It was the argument made by Tony Blair but specifically rejected by the Bush administration. Paul Wolfowitz explained in Vanity Fair that human rights violations were not a sufficient consideration for invasion.

        2) It was all Saddam's fault that we thought he had WMD. The wily coot fooled us by repeatedly denying that he had any, a fiendishly clever ploy.

        3) He probably shipped them all to Syria just before we got there.

        4) Get over it. We've heard enough from you people.

 -- Torture at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere?

        1) No worse than fraternity hazing.

        2) Just some low-level, white-trash morons.

        3) We haven't tortured nearly as many people as Saddam Hussein.

        4) Al Qaeda never signed no stinkin' Geneva Conventions, so we have a right to torture them.  

        5) Shut up, they explained.

        -- Torture was explicitly authorized at the highest levels of government.

        1-5) See above, plus:

        6) Did not.

        7) So what?

        8) "I'm going to say it one more time. The instructions went out to our people to adhere to the law. That ought to comfort you. We're a nation of laws. We adhere to laws. We have laws on the books. You might look at those laws, and that might comfort you."

        Problem is the administration looked at the laws and decided to ignore them.

        -- Ahmad Chalabi is not just a liar, con man, thief and faker of intelligence, but also apparently a spy for Iran.

        1) Chalabi? Ahmad who? Never heard of him.

        2) We cut off all ties with Chalabi some time ago. (Last week.)

        -- The 9-11 Commission reports there is no evidence of collaboration between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, and in fact Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were all much bigger players with Al Qaeda.

        1) The 9-11 Commission didn't say that.

        2) The media are overplaying the story and are also lazy and outrageous. (Never mind that it's the media's fault as much as the administration's that 69 percent of the American people were under the misimpression that Saddam Hussein was directly tied to 9-11.)

        3) We never claimed he was behind 9-11. No, we never did -- we may have implied it, we may have hinted, we may have suggested, insinuated, intimated, connoted, alluded to and said it between the lines, but we never said it, and you can't prove we did and we have no idea how the great majority of Americans ever got that silly idea in the first place. So stop reporting that it's not true.

        4) We are tired of hearing from you people, this has been going on for almost 24 hours now and only Dead Reagan gets a week's worth of our undivided attention. Back to Kobe Bryant and Laci Peterson.

        All in all, I'd say these folks have their act down now. Dick Cheney gets bonus points for Best Lying With a Straight Face.

        On June 8, John Ashcroft was driven to the old Nixon defense -- stonewalling. He not only refused to provide the Senate Judiciary Committee with Justice Department memos justifying torture, he refused to explain why he refused. The Washington Post then helpfully posted the memo on its website so we could all enjoy reading how our "Justice Department" explains why the president is above the law and above the Constitution, and does not need to observe any treaties.

        Also, we learned it is not torture unless it is "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impaired bodily function or even death."

        Water torture (that's the one they politely refer to as "stressful conditions") was a particular favorite of the Gestapo against the French Resistance in World War II. Anal rape and shoving broken light bulbs up the rear end don't count at all.

        I'm so glad George W. Bush has restored honor and integrity to the White House. And I appreciate all his defenders in the media more than I can say. They are truly distinguishing themselves as patriots in this hour of need.

         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.