Consider, for what it reveals about the Democrats' fitness to govern, their party's telecast "response" (a movie made before the president's message was written) to the State of the Union address. Consider especially what the Democrats saw fit to have Rep. Thomas Daschle of South Dakota say about the gravest issues, defense:

"The examples of waste are unbelievable. One, for instance, the Pentagon spent more than $3 million last year for shots and veterinary care for the pet dogs of generals."

Jeepers! That is $2,798.50 for every general's pet. When I called Daschle's office for substantiation, I was referred to remarks printed in the Congressional Record by Rep. Les Aspin (I-Wis.), who has made a career of hectoring the Defense Department. Daschle's statement turns out to have been an inaccurate gloss on what Aspin said, and what Aspin said was wrong.

Aspin said, "The Pentagon is spending more than $3 million a year to subsidize venterinary care for dogs and cats owned by people in the services." Daschle said "generals" just to add an icing of demagoguery to Aspin's cake of demagoguery. Eighty percent of personnel using veterinary services are of the rank sergeant or below.

Aspin concocted the figure of $3,328,831 as "the taxpayer bill for providing pet care" by erroneously estimating the amount of time military veterinarians spend dealing with privately owned animals; by missing the fact that such care is oftered only on a "space available" basis, which means it is undertaken only when other duties are done; by not allowing for the faact that so little time is devoted to such care that climinating it would not make possible reduction of the number of military veterinarians; by multiplying the number of veterinary services by the difference between what private-sector veterinarians charge and the lower fees charged by military vets.

Actually, the Pentagon makes money on pet care.

The principal duties of Army and Air Force vets (the Navy has none) are food inspection and care for animals (such as horses and guard dogs) used in military functions. Clearly, it is proper for military vets to provide services relating to disease prevention (registration, examination, immunization, quarantine, administering stray-dog pounds, etc.), and emergency humanitarian service to prevent undue suffering, among animals owned by persons living on military installations. Elective surgical procedures such as spaying and neutering are performed only when civilian services are not reasonably available.

Pet owners pay the full cost of supplies and drugs, plus an additional charge to help defray the general overhead of veterinary services. Yes, of course, there is a difference between fees charged by private-sector vets and military vets. This difference that scandalizes Aspin and Daschle is explained by the fact (I'll say this slowly, fellows) that military vets are not allowing full play to the profit motive.

But the veterinary service for private pets is making a profit. In 1981, the Air Force made $647,000 on such services. The money was used to support morale, welfare and recreational services. The American Veterinary Medical Association has concurred in this policy of prophylactic medicine.

Oh, yes -- and one more thing. Aspin's remarks filled about a page and a half of the Congressional Record, costing taxpayers about $4,000.

This "generals' pets" canard, which figured in some Democrats' campaigns last autumn, suggests the depths of anti-defense bigotry in the Democratic Party, which selected the canard for prime-time television. The virus of McGovernism is still in the party's system. And it was not just regarding defense that the Democrat's movie was, well, relaxed about the facts.

An AFL-CIO operative denounced as administration "proposals" ideas that were never proposed. Someone identified only as a "retired businessman" took a silly statement by a deputy undersecretary of defense concerning civil defense, distorted the statement and falsely attributed it to "the head of Civil Defense." And a congresswoman said:

"We have proposed the Byrd-Wright Interest Rate Bill. It directs the Federal Reserve Board to make sure interest rates are lowered and lowered automatically in relation to inflation, to a level that has been our historic policy for more than 30 years." Actually there was a Byrd bill and there was a Wright bill, and they, like the Synoptic Gospels, contained small differences that some people consider important. Anyway, a bill can "direct" the Fed to fine-tune rates, but it is beyond the Fed's capability to do so.

The message of the Democrats' movie was that the party will not let facts be a killing frost in its garden of fantasies.