AUSTIN, Texas -- Thank goodness! Just in the nick of time, up shows the Proud of Texas Committee to "act as a resource on Texas facts for members of the media between now and the November election."

And look at the variety of citizens on this committee!

Mike Levy, publisher of Texas Monthly, two lobbyists, a state employee and a guy who sells cement to the state. And they have absolutely nothing in common, except they're all supporting George W. Bush! Thank heavens, objectivity at last.

The Proud of Texas Committee is concerned lest Texas "suffer damage from the kind of political firestorms that often are driven by national campaigns." Further, the group wants to "safeguard the state from the adverse effects of a political firestorm and base political expediency." Oh no, not base political expediency! Anything but that!

To this noble end, the Proud of Texas Committee has sent a letter to Vice President Al Gore really giving him what-for because "the home state of a presidential contender can suffer enormous damage as a result of inaccuracies and misrepresentations."

Good grief. People might get the idea that we have polluted air in Texas, or that we execute people with a certain ... ah ... failure to attend to the finer details -- such as whether they're actually guilty.

People might get the impression that our kids' SAT scores are below the national average and that our state ranks among the lowest in the nation in terms of college graduates.

But the Proud of Texas Committee certainly set the veep straight on this score, because those statements are "patently false." So patently false are they that the committee informs the veep that Texas has increased state funding of public schools by $8.3 billion over the past six years, accounting for 56 percent of all new state spending during that period. So there.

And we have 31 percent more African-American students and 27 percent more Hispanic students here taking the SAT and heading to college today than in 1994. So there.

And so on and so forth, all leading to the declaration: "Texans have every reason to be proud that our state is a leader in improving public education, and any suggestion to the contrary not only is untrue, but also is an insult to the students, parents, teachers and citizens who have worked long and hard to achieve this success. Clearly, education is our state's number-one priority."

So just because our kids' SAT scores are below the national average and our state ranks among the lowest in college graduates, don't tell us we have a problem.

I especially liked the committee's statement on health care: "You stated that Texas ignores children's health care needs, a claim that is offensive and outrageous." Why, look: "Last year alone, Texas provided more than $4 billion in health care to uninsured persons ..." And Texas has "passed and implemented new laws to provide health insurance for more than 423,000 children."

Ah, how true it is. Well, actually, sort of true.

We got three-for-one federal matching dollars to set up the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), but Bush wanted to set a lower poverty rate that would have knocked 200,000 kids out of the program, and he wanted separate applications for CHIP and Medicaid, since Medicaid is where the state really saves money. As Bush said to state Rep. Glen Maxey after the guv lost on both issues, "You shoved it down our throat."

Good, now that leaves only 600,000 uninsured kids in the state who should be enrolled in Medicaid.

As the Proud Committee told the veep, "Clearly, children's health care is of paramount importance in Texas." Right after a balanced budget (even if we're missing the mark there), a $1.7 billion tax cut and not rocking the boat. Perhaps "paramount" was not quite the right word.

And so it goes throughout this magnificent defense of the Great State. How proud we are of the Proud Committee, lobbyists and all.

And hey -- we are proud of our legislators, because they are the finest, brightest, most impressive bunch of certified doofuses in the whole universe, and I just wish that cartoonists would stop portraying them as a bunch of yahoos with pots on their heads. They hardly ever wear pots on their heads.

Proud? Hell, we're just struttin' like a gobbler at layin' time.

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.