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Canard to the right of them, canard to the left of them, canard in front of them, boldly they rode and well into the mouth of the 1992 elections.

With apologies to Alfred Tennyson and the late Light Brigade, let's examine two of the canards that are being flung at the voters as we choose a president.A canard, as most of you know, is an absurd story floated to deceive the public. Among the many pollutants in our atmosphere, there are a number of canards.

One is that the United States won the Cold War. It did not. Ronald Reagan did not. Most of all, George Bush did not. Communism, built on a foundation of false promises, collapsed under the weight of its armaments. We were like a boxer sitting in our corner waiting for the fight to start when our opponent, sitting in his corner, suffered a heart attack. Only a politician would call that winning.

If anyone deserves credit for the collapse of communism, it is the people of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. They refused to be whipped into the new man communist intellectuals ordained.

Another related canard is that the United States is now the world's only remaining superpower. What, pray tell, is a superpower? If by superpower you mean a government that commands a nuclear arsenal capable of killing millions in minutes, then there remain two - the United States and the Red Army. The nuclear forces on both sides are still in place. What disappeared were rational targets - if indeed there ever were any rational targets.

We are not a superpower because we formed a coalition and beat up on a Third World country with a population less than greater New York City and led by an inept dictator. A superpower would not have required six months of mobilization to do that. A superpower would not have had to beg foreigners for the money to pay for the bullets.

That inept dictator, by the way, appears to have about as good a chance of staying in power as President Bush.

By more sane measurements, we have declined considerably since 1945. Our workers are no longer the highest paid. They are 13th. Take note of that, you union-bashers. We are the world's No. 1 debtor nation. We are one of the few industrial nations that do not provide universal health care. Our manufacturing base is shrinking and our poverty levels are rising. We no longer have the highest living standard in the world. We are certainly not number one in education, reducing infant mortality or in literacy.

It's not my purpose to run down this country we all love dearly, but just to remind you that the first step in solving a problem is to define it accurately. There are politicians out there who want to make you feel good - at least long enough to re-elect them.

The collapse of communism provides us with an opportunity to straighten ourselves out. But it's just an opportunity, an opening, a chance. We have to act. Let us be done with canards, bombast, self-delusion, back-patting, ethnocentric ignorance, and blue-sky rhetoric.

The message we need to hear is: Don't feel good, get busy.