If one thing is abundantly obvious during this presidential-campaign season, it is, simply, that all campaign seasons last far too long. The British have all the better of it in this regard, mandating that their similar exercises in government takeover/continuance lasts only weeks, thus relieving the public of an expensive, mostly intelligence-insulting circus, featuring the worst of posturing and the worst of bending or even completely deserting the truth. This is true for all the parties.

The current season is the worst in a long time, if not in ever. The candidates, especially the challengers, have been running for office for the better part of 2003 and 2004, spending both private money and tens of millions of dollars of taxpayers' money as they, because of weird election laws, became eligible for collecting it, never mind that perhaps the majority of them this year were never rated seriously by the public. Nine democrats fought with each other, spent a ton of money, made themselves look silly tramping through the snows of New Hampshire (the 44th smallest state geographically, with about one and a quarter million in population, one-seventh the size of New York City alone) and attending little caucuses here and there. In the process, the two finalists for the top spots, Kerry and Edwards, have deserted their Senate responsibilities for a couple of years, leaving their states un-represented, while other legislators in the running (or supposedly so) were absent from their duties for months on end. For people like Al Sharpton, Wesley Clark, and Carol Mosely Braun, the primary activity was just a sort of vacation from doing real work.

President Bush has been away from the hot seat for more time than he should have, too, although he's managed to at least be in Washington part of most days. He has little choice, however, since the sharks circling in the water must be battled head to head, lest the manure of their campaign un-substance bury (or drown) him in the silly quadrennial affair.

Both conventions this season were exercises in well-scripted propaganda activity, shedding a lot of heat on matters, but little light. There was a time when conventions actually meant something, but now they're not even noticed, at least through most media, by the public, which has become inured to the follies. They are scripted to be entertainment venues, actually an insult to the collective intelligence of the public. The primary system, besides being intolerably expensive, has negated the need for conventions, since platforms mean nothing and the candidates have already been chosen, well-coifed (good hair) and been rehearsed over and over, lest some small word uttered un-scripted be pounced upon by the media as an enlightenment roughly equivalent to that of Genesis One or a condemnation equating to Hitler's Mein Kampf. Speaking without a teleprompter has become a no-no of immense proportions, while parading one's family, as if it is also being elected, has become standard fare for the candidate, perhaps hopefully offered as proof that he/she is not an ogre, since the family is alive and well.

The special-interest groups and individuals with agendas have been inordinately (and often dishonestly) active this year. Book after book from the big-name publishers has been coming out all year in opposition to president Bush. Written by disgruntled once-weres (or is that has-beens?) or just people craving attention, and money, of course, they have been filled with reasons to deep-six the president, never mind the cause of origin. Most of these books have been mentioned earlier - written by folks like Richard Clarke (proved in a Senate hearing to be a liar); Joseph Wilson (proved by well examined documents to be a liar); and Bob Woodward (honcho at The Washington Post, enough said); and Kitty Kelley, a gossip-monger who gave not one first-hand corroborator for any of the slime she obviously just fabricated. The authors appeared on all the talking-head shows to vent their spleens and advertise their books.

While I read reviews of the books mentioned above and actually watched the main 9/11 hearings, I read all of the book Unfit for Command, authored by two men who knew John Kerry for just who he was before, during, and after the 60s-70s Vietnam experience of four months that he seized upon as his main recommendation for office. I believe that book, which is well-documented, and can't understand why Kerry would have brought the Viet experience to the forefront, since even a cursory examination of his conduct at the time referenced eventuates in believing his actions to be totally despicable and even illegal at the time. Even high-profile Jane Fonda has apologized for her silly, unpatriotic actions of those days, but Kerry hasn't and is even today honored in communist-run Vietnam for his part in denigrating the USA to the advantage of the despotic North Vietnam regime of those days. This isn't even to mention the actual facts of his service and his refusal to open all of his records.

Even the so-called debates are relatively useless, in part because each of the contenders already has a record, either in public office or the bureaucracy, or both, on which to place judgment and derive opinion. Unfortunately, style trumps substance in this entertainment-sated society, so that one might conclude that these efforts should be conducted on radio only. On a recent O'Reilly clambake (Fox News), former CBS honcho Don Hewitt, the initiator of the first TV debate (Kennedy-Nixon, 1960), made mention of the fact that Nixon looked bad not because of the sweat on his upper lip but because he was sick and refused makeup. Hewitt said that Nixon won the debate on substance but suffered because of style. And so it goes. In the recent Cheney-Edwards vice-presidential set-to, Edwards spent some time dwelling on the fact that one of Cheney's daughters is a lesbian. Was there any reason for dragging this subject into the debate? Of course not, but such has become the virulence connected with TV campaigns.

Perhaps the most egregious act, at least of the media, was the effort by CBS' Dan Rather to portray as substantive some documents having to do with the 60s-70s military records of President Bush. The effort was designed to discredit the president, even though the subject of the documents was 35+ years old, but the catch was that the documents were forged - fakes as authentic as a three-dollar bill. It's not hard to see why Rather would be out to get the president, since he has been a Bushwhacker for years - both G.W. Bush and his father, former president G.H.W. Bush; however, to sink that low is to invite immediate firing, but Rather gasps on, spreading his venom apparently with the blessing of at least CBS.

Much more could be said in this vein, but suffice it to say that the USA desperately needs the British system.