Paul Greenberg

Mrs. Clinton does seem to have solved or at least minimized her biggest problem: What do you do with hubby? Bill Clinton has been relegated to the back of the platform on election nights, where he looks on silently but beneficently, or tries to. During the rest of the campaign, he's assigned to the boonies, where he can still draw a crowd without drawing too much media attention to the gaffes that have made him a regular embarrassment to the missus. There is a certain pathos to the whole spectacle, like an aging matinee star reduced to playing a bit role.

But the show must go on, however ploddingly. You can almost hear the great god Demos, aka The People, drumming its fingers on the table as the Democrats' demolition derby proceeds. To where? Why, to West Virginia this week, and to Kentucky and Oregon the week after that, and then - ta da! - to crucial, decisive, climatic Puerto Rico! come June 1, followed by all-important Montana! and South Dakota! two days after that. In short, to inconclusion.

In the old undemocratic days, which begin to seem an almost Periclean Age in nostalgic hindsight, the party bosses - they had names like Daley and Farley and Pendergast and Crump - would convene in some, yes, smoke-filled room and pick a nominee. Sometimes they'd hit on a winner (McKinley, Harding) and sometimes not (James M. Cox, John W. Davis) but matters would be settled. And everybody would be happy and united, or pretend to be, as they surely will do again at the end of this long trail a-winding.

But who will settle things this year? The all-wise super-delegates, of course, this era's bosses. But first the campaign must conclude, or rather peter out, while the more civic-minded among us, that is, the most masochistic, follow it to the dull end. Duty demands.

Someone condemned to write about this never-ending Campaign of '07-'08, someone like me, begins to think of it as a Waiting for an Asteroid time. I take the term from the incomparable Florence King, essayist and reviewer extraordinaire, whose specialty is penning great reviews of awful books. Assigned some indigestible tome full of postmodern prose that fully deserved deconstruction, if not complete demolition, preferably by dynamite, Miss King would find herself utterly disheartened. But then she'd spot one of those occasional news items about a Giant Asteroid bearing down on Earth. The report would fill her with hope. All was lost. Maybe she wouldn't have to finish reading the damned book after all.

I'm starting to feel the same way about this fun-filled campaign. Not long ago I caught myself searching the night sky. Alas, not a Giant Asteroid in sight.

Obama-Clinton '08 now threatens to go on as long as Bush-Gore in 2000. The country is reaching the point where people are less interested in who wins than in getting the thing over with. So politics can get serious again.

It's not as if there aren't serious issues out there. There's the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and on terror in general, and whether to rely on the free market in this uncertain economy or try to tax-and-spend our way out of tough times. But all we get is identity politics in place of the real kind. White women, working stiffs, assemble over there. Black folks, the college educated (or rather the college-trained in these technocratic times), step over here. Who cares what the two remaining candidates for the Democratic nomination have to say? It's what they look like that counts.

Strength. This thing's got to end some time. Doesn't it?


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.