AUSTIN, Texas -- I'm sorry, but every now and again a girl just finds it necessary to lay her head down on the table and howl with laughter. I wrote a column warning that USA Next, a Republican Astroturf (meaning "fake grass-roots") group was going to attack the AARP. The senior citizens' lobby does not support the privatization of Social Security, and so clearly incurs the wrath of all God-fearing, true-believing, highly paid Republican public relations firms. But I have to confess, even I did not see this one coming.

You may not believe it, but I swear it is true: USA Next's first salvo was to accuse the geezer lobby of being against our troops in Iraq and in favor of homosexual marriage.

No joke, what journalist-blogger Josh Marshall calls "the fogey-bund" stands accused of being anti-soldier and pro-gay-knot-tying. A charming Internet ad shows a muscular hero of the desert in combat fatigues with a big X across his picture, and on the other side are two guys in tuxedos getting hitched with a big check across their picture. Under these two pictures, it says, "The REAL AARP Agenda."

I haven't laughed so hard since President Bush informed us that we have had a close and enduring friendship with Japan for the past 150 years.

Being old enough myself to join the AARP -- not a member, but well into Wrinkly City -- I find this the most deliciously zany, mortifyingly awful moment since the time a speaker of the Texas House called on a bunch of people in wheelchairs to stand and be recognized.

I'm really curious as to how far this "anti-military, pro-gay" attack stuff can be extended. Take the Pope, for example. The Pope differs from the president on the matter of capital punishment. In fact, I can remember at least two occasions when the Pope wrote then-Gov. Bush agonized pleas on behalf of some of our more spectacularly pardonable prisoners. Karl, does this mean the Pope is anti-military and pro-gay?

Yes, our old friends from the Swift Boat Veterans for "Truth" are back again. The very people who told you that John Kerry was anti-military and pro-gay -- the people who told you he didn't deserve his medals from Vietnam, who said he testified before Congress that American soldiers were all war criminals -- these same friendly folk are back again, attacking the AARP, a group largely known for advocating afternoon naps for the elderly. (Disclosure: I once wrote an article for the AARP magazine "Modern Maturity," and not only did they pay well, but they got the jokes, too.)

Despite this happy onetime experience, I am not an AARP fan. I consider its support of the abomination that is the Medicare prescription drug coverage bill the most ill-advised sellout since the memorably awful 1996 telecommunications deregulation bill. (Enjoying that one, everyone? Your bills gone down lately?)

USA Next has the same address as O'Neill Marketing Co., although Charlie Jarvis, head of Next, says he's three floors down. O'Neill is a list company -- it sells lists of names, and its clients are various branches of the Republican Party. O'Neill was once partnered with the United Seniors Association, which then morphed into USA Next. So subtle. Hi, Karl.

Speaking of healing laughter, the president is providing all Europe with chuckles. After he denounced the idea that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran as "ridiculous," he then promptly added, "All options are on the table." So they laughed, apparently on the polite assumption that the man must be joking.

Not being veteran Bush-listeners, they are unaccustomed to the fact that he often contradicts himself, sometimes from one sentence to the next. They have also failed to master the key element of Bush-listening -- you must understand that George W. Bush is never, ever wrong. He does not make mistakes. And if he is against something one day and for it the next (that would be everything from opposing the 9-11 commission to the corporate law brought on by the Enron scandals), he is still never wrong.

He is right to oppose things, and he is right to support those same things. He's not a flip-flopper, like you-know-who. And if something he says turns out to be completely untrue (hard to think of such a case, but the letters WMD somehow float to mind), it is never his fault and best to ignore it.

If you do not pretend to believe everything Bush says, then you are unpatriotic, against Our Troops and probably in support of gay marriage. Those Europeans understand nothing.

Speaking of unsatisfactory allies, Canada has had the nerve (!) to announce it does not want to be under our nuclear shield, if we ever get it built. Gee, how could it not want to buy into (and help pay for) our Star Wars defense system? Just because it doesn't work and costs the earth? Well, they're partly French, you know.

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