ST. LOUIS -- Oh, you sweet, innocent, carefree citizens in non-swing states. You have no idea how much fun and slime you are missing.

In the swingers, wolves stalk us mercilessly (as the pro-wolf lobby points out indignantly, no one has ever been killed by wolves on U.S. soil, but try arguing that in the face of the relentless new TV ad campaign). Breaking news everywhere -- 380 tons of high explosives in Iraq left unattended, stock market down to year's low, leading economic indicators down, more tragedy in Iraq, the Swift Boat Liars are back, more Halliburton scandal, George Tenet says the war in Iraq is "wrong" -- it feels like you're dodging meteorites here in the Final Days.

Actually, the best evidence suggests we need to slow way down and go way back, because far from being able to take in anything new, it turns out many of our fellow citizens, especially Bush supporters, are stuck like bugs in amber in some early misperceptions that have never been cleared up.

It seems the majority of Bush supporters, according to recent polls, still believe Saddam Hussein had ties to Al Qaeda and even to 9-11, and that the United States found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Many of you are asking how that could possibly be, since everybody knows …

But everybody doesn't know. There it is. And if you are wondering why everybody doesn't know, you can either blame it on the media, always a shrewd move, or take notice that the administration is STILL spreading this same misinformation.

Both Donald Rumsfeld and Bush have publicly acknowledged there is no evidence of any links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. However, as Dick Cheney campaigns, a standard part of his stump speech is the accusation that Saddam Hussein "had a relationship" with Al Qaeda or "has long-established ties to Al Qaeda." He makes this claim up to the present day. The 9-11 Commission, however, found that there was "no collaborative relationship" between the two.

Cheney, of course, also has never given up his touching faith that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, recently referring to a "nuclear" program that had in fact been abandoned shortly after the first Gulf War. Bush and Cheney misled the country into war using these two false premises, and it turns out an enormous number of our fellow citizens still believe both of them to be true. It's not because they're stupid, but because an administration they trust is still telling them both phony propositions are true.

Normally, when you get a situation like that -- where people are simply not acknowledging reality -- it is considered a cult, a form of groupthink based on irrational beliefs propagated by what is normally a charismatic leader. So those Kerry volunteers earnestly engaging Bush supporters on the latest outrage are way off base. They need to go all the way back to the Two Great Lies that got us into this: Many American soldiers marching into Iraq believed it was "payback for 9-11."

A third slightly blinding fact (to me) is that more people now think Kerry behaved shamefully in regards to Vietnam than did W. Bush. Incredible what brazen lying will do, isn't it?

A friend of Bush's dad got him into the "champagne unit" of the Texas Air National Guard, a unit packed with the sons of the privileged trying to stay out of Vietnam, and he failed to complete his service there. Kerry is a genuine, bona fide war hero. The men who served on his boat are supporting him for president, but those who didn't serve with him, who weren't there, who don't know what happened, have been given more credence. Wolves will get you!

In further unhappy evidence of how ill-informed the American people are (blame the media), the Program on International Policy Attitudes found Bush supporters consistently ill-informed about Bush's stands on the issues (Kerry-ans, by contrast, are overwhelmingly right about his positions). Eighty-seven percent of Bush supporters think he favors putting labor and environmental standards into international trade agreements. Eighty percent of Bush supporters believe Bush wants to participate in the treaty banning landmines. Seventy-six percent of Bush supporters believe Bush wants to participate in the treat banning nuclear weapons testing. Sixty-two percent believes Bush would participate in the International Criminal Court. Sixty-one percent believes Bush wants to participate in the Kyoto Treaty on global warming. Fifty-three percent does not believe Bush is building a missile defense system, a.k.a. "Star Wars."

The only two Bush stands the majority of his supporters got right were on increasing defense spending and who should write the new Iraqi constitution.

Kerry supporters, by contrast, know their man on seven out of eight issues, with only 43 percent understanding he wants to keep defense spending the same but change how the money is spent and 57 percent believing he wants to up it.

So what's going on here? I do not think Kerry people are smarter than Bush people, so why are they better-informed? Maybe a small percentage of ideological right-wingers don't believe anything the Establishment media say, but I don't think this is a matter of not believing what they hear, but of not hearing what's factual.

The great triumph of the political right in this country has been the creation of a network of alternative media. There are people who listen to Rush Limbaugh for more hours every day than the Branch Davidians listened to David Koresh. Watch Fox News, read The Washington Times -- hey, that's what the Bush administration does, according to its own words.

But it's not just the right-wing media purveying lies -- they are quoting the administration. These misimpressions come directly from the Bush administration, still, over and over.

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.