Today, President Bush was out preaching the values of books to kids.

He didn't say it, but I will. Kids would be better off with less computer time and more book time.

Computers are smart, but I swear they are making us dumber by the minute. Oh yes, we get all sorts of information we didn't used to have or didn't used to have so quickly ... But why do parents think it's okay to park their kids in a room with a computer and an AOL account and say Hey. Roam the world. You're safe here in your room?

We've heard time and time again why this is folly. The latest example is that of the 15-year-old girl who was lured into a devils' den in Long Island, N.Y. where she was sexually abused, tortured and imprisoned.

Could this have happened by reading a book instead of chatting on the Internet? Well, I guess theoretically … if she went crazy over Lady Chatterly's Lover.

And yes, I remember all the bad old days when the old prudes were trying to ban books — or worse — burn them.

I don't mean to sound like a new prude, but I am not sold on this Internet. Mark Twain once defined a gold mine as a hole in the ground with a liar on top.

I would cite Mark Twain and remind all you dot com investors that there was definitely a liar on top of something there. And now these same Internet dopes are telling you that the net is where kids have to be.

I'm not buying it.

When I talked to a friend today —  a guy my age —  who has a 16-year-old daughter, his inclination was to trust his daughter, trust her intelligence, her lack of naiveté. Maybe most 16-year-olds are like her, and only a small number are like the 15-year-old who was lured out of her house by molesters.

But still, Bush is right about this one. If you took the computer away from your kid and replaced it with books, and if — by some miracle — your kid actually read the books, you both would be better off.

Believe me, when it's time for your kid to make a living at the computer, somebody will teach him or her how.

I've been impressed by countless books. I haven't been impressed even once by the Internet … except maybe that time I looked at a beachfront house I could rent in Maui.

And even that, I could have found in a book.

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