Paul Greenberg

As for that other formerly Inevitable Nominee, Hillary Clinton's immediate challenge is quite the opposite: How keep the Rev. Mr. Wright (BEGIN ITALICS)in (END ITALICS)the public eye, especially in Indiana? An epicenter of the old KKK back in the '20s, Indiana now has become the latest crux of this never-ending fight for the Democratic nomination.

It feels as if this title bout has already gone 15 rounds, but both contenders keep coming out at the bell.

This is the kind of Democratic contest that only a Republican could love. The party's two surviving presidential candidates seem ever more determined to beat each other into submission, and both may succeed.

Whoever wins this increasingly bitter debate may find the prize hollow, for will the party's nomination retain its legitimacy after so bitter a contest? Will the more fervent partisans of the loser, convinced they were cheated of victory, drift away in a huff? Or even, perish the thought, vote Republican in the fall?

This whole presidential campaign has been a never-ending succession of surprises:

It's been a campaign in which John McCain was supposed to be washed up, but then comes back with a Surge.

It's been a campaign in which a freshman U.S. senator by the unlikely name of Barack Hussein Obama (hey, what a country!) comes out of nowhere to lead the race for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States. And if Sen. Obama keeps dissing whole categories of American voters the way he did small-town folks in Pennsylvania, he may be headed right back there.

It's been a campaign in which, to quote one political kibitzer, Hillary Clinton has done the impossible: She's raised her negatives.

Stay tuned for more of the same - if you can stand it. Great issues may face the country, but they go largely unexplored. Trivialization, thy name is American politics.

For example, I see by the perfectly serious New York Times that Sen. Obama's advisers had debated whether to let him be pictured playing some basketball on the campaign trail because, though it might help him look like a regular guy, especially in Hoosierland, "it could raise racial stereotypes."

You can't make this kind of thing up.

It's remarkable how the Times' esteemed correspondents can keep a straight face when reporting on this year's presidential election. And something tells me the campaign has only begun to get silly.

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.