AUSTIN, Texas -- The governor of Texas is despicable. Of all the crass pandering, of all the gross political kowtowing to ignorance, we haven't seen anything this rank from Gov. Goodhair since, gee, last fall.

Then, he was trying to draw attention away from his spectacular failure on public schools by convincing Texans that gay marriage was a horrible threat to us all. Now, he's trying to disguise the fact that the schools are in freefall by proposing we teach creationism in biology classes.

The funding of the whole school system is so unfair it has been declared unconstitutional by the Texas Supreme Court. All last year, Perry haplessly called special session after special session, trying to fix the problem, and couldn't get anywhere -- not an iota, not a scintilla of leadership.

Instead of facing the grave crisis that may yet result in the schools being closed down, Perry has blithely gone off on creationism -- teach the little perishers the Earth is 6,000 years old, that people lived at the same time as dinosaurs and who cares if the school building is falling apart?

Perry faced a potential primary challenge from State Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn. The Texas Republican Party is now so completely dominated by the Christian right, however, that a relative moderate like Strayhorn has no chance against Perry, who has been assiduously kissing the feet, to say the least, of the most extreme elements of the party. So Strayhorn announced she would seek election as an independent, and Perry played the creationism card. Gee, let's all have a big discussion about gays, creationism and covenant marriage -- that'll solve the state's staggering problems with schools and health care.

In case you missed it, the court decision everyone has been waiting for on teaching creationism in the schools came out on Dec. 20, and it explains, quite clearly, why creationism cannot be taught as science in this country. Because it isn't science, it's religion.

The decision in the Dover, Pa., school board case by Judge John Jones III, a Republican and Bush appointee, is well worth reading. It annihilates the case for teaching creationism. Calling creationism "intelligent design" changes nothing and is disingenuous to the point of being painful. Perry emphasized the equally disingenuous notion that there is "controversy" about evolution, supposedly two sides equally worth considering, so we should "teach the controversy." His spokesperson, Kathy Walt, actually said teaching different theories is part of "developing students' critical thinking skills." That's pathetic.

One hears evolution dismissed as "just a theory," as though all of science weren't based on theory and eternally subject to new evidence to the contrary. In science, gravity is "just a theory" -- and if you ever drop something and it falls up, they'll reconsider the whole theory for you. That's just how "theoretical" evolution is -- constantly subject to evidence and proof. But creationism cannot be tested and proved against evidence using the scientific method -- that is why it is not science, it is faith.

Meanwhile, it's heartening to note that political nincompoopery is not limited to Texas. A couple of recent quotes out of Washington, D.C., cause the jaw to drop. Our very own Tom DeLay, upon announcing he would quit as majority leader, said: "During my time in Congress, I have always acted in an ethical manner, within the rules of our body and the law of our land. I am fully confident time will bear this out." Good grief, the man was sanctioned three times by the House ethics committee last year alone.

Equally stupefying is the attempted emergence of Newt Gingrich, of all people, as an arbiter of ethics. Gingrich has been going about the media, holding forth on the shortcomings of today's Republicans. Let's see, that would be the same Newt Gingrich who originally started using the lobby as an arm of the Republican Party, right? Same Gingrich had the distinction of being the only House speaker to be reprimanded by his colleagues for ethical wrongdoing? Same Gingrich who was accused of misusing nonprofit organizations for political purposes, personally benefiting from political contributions, cutting a sleazy book deal and giving false statements to ethics investigators? Same Gingrich who was fined $300,000 for said lying? I thought it was that Gingrich.

They must really think we're morons.

On the general subject of political corruption, do not fall into the fatal error of cynicism. You do your country a great disservice by saying things like: "Eh, they're all crooks. Nothing anyone can do about it. Money will always find a way."

The answer is perpetual reform. Fix it, and if corruption comes back again, you just whack back at it again. The system as it is encourages corruption and must be changed. Public campaign financing is the best answer in the long-term -- all this "lobby reform" talk is hopelessly inadequate. Hang in, and raise hell -- this is a heaven-sent opportunity to clean it up. Don't blow the chance with cheap cynicism.

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 2006 CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.