Paul Greenberg

This front-loaded presidential election year is spinning past at dizzying speed. It's all happening much too fast to think. Which isn't good for the voters, the country, or the candidates, who no longer get to wage a long, drawn-out national campaign for their party's nomination. To run a presidential marathon requires endurance, thought, organization and grace under pressure. Maybe even high principle. Or at least low cunning. Reduce the race to a sprint and you get, well, what the country's got in 2008 - too many elections too soon. Result: The chances increase of electing a chief executive unprepared for the job - and Lord knows the country has had enough of those.

Some of us can remember those long-ago times, like four years ago, when a proper pace was maintained in these presidential sweepstakes. The campaign would essentially start off, as long custom dictated, in New Hampshire in February, proceed in measured steps to big states like New York in the late spring, and then conclude with the biggest prize of all, California, at the beginning of summer. This long, stately procession of primaries set the stage for the big show, the nominating conventions, at the end of the whole, and possibly even deliberative, process.

Well, deliberation ain't got a chance in 2008. Not in all this swirl. Those of us who are supposed to comment on these hasty proceedings barely have time to scrawl a few notes, let alone go beyond the horse race to discuss the great issues at stake, if any.

There's just barely time to count the votes in one primary before the country must move on to the next crucial/decisive/must-win primary or primaries. Super Tuesday is followed by Super Tuesday II, which will be followed by what? A sudden-death playoff tonight? A slow swan song over half a year? A helluva trainwreck at this year's Democratic national convention that'll derail the surviving candidate in the fall?

Through the grace of history or maybe just happenstance, the United States of America had developed just about the best of tests for a prospective president: the long, well-paced campaign. Now we're busy junking it.

The only sure thing about this year's presidential election is that it's going too fast. The effect is like running an old movie at twice the intended speed, or a 33 rpm record at 78. Everything is reduced to a high-pitched whine, a montage of jerky movements. Think? Americans are too busy voting - early and often.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.