I have come to agree with Hillary and Bill Clinton and Barack Obama that this progressively grueling contest for the Democratic presidential nomination should play itself out completely.

I have come to agree with Hillary and Bill Clinton and Barack Obama that this progressively grueling contest for the Democratic presidential nomination should play itself out completely.

It will not be the bitter end, but a more complete end. I also think it will be good for our country, in a time of little snippets that are supposed to be news.

I believe that contestants should battle as long as necessary to stack up something more substantial than the eight-second clips that Peggy Noonan wrote of in The Wall Street Journal that masquerade as normal television coverage. There are very few commercials that short, yet voters are expected to know what a candidate said and understand every topic he or she discussed just because the cameras were there.

All of this makes everything too short to be seriously considered by anyone with more than a 5-year-old brain. So, given our electronically dominated time, too many things are reduced to offshoots of commercials or trailers for films. The term "attention span" dominates our lives these days, whether in the classroom or in political races. Our pundits and politicians feel forced to compete for the attention of the masses, using snappy little slogans or phrases that reveal less than the possibility of being easily remembered.

We have become accustomed to the little things that are supposed to mean big things. But is that the best way for us to judge the people who are running for national office? In a far less dangerous time for this nation or for the world, families used to pack up picnic baskets and listen to a Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln debate the length of a cable series of six one-hour episodes. It was not because they had nothing better to do -- there is always something that you can convince yourself is more fun than listening to a couple of strangers argue. The people wanted to know.

I am not so sure that Americans today want to know as much as they are capable of knowing, but I am sure that the public will be forced to know something after a certain point.

Barack Obama has charisma to burn, and Hillary Clinton has more of a ruthless fighting spirit than most, but time will wear away every inch of preparation, and we will see, as we have already begun to see, how they handle the mistake, the surprise, the filmed and the filth that seems to be endlessly spewed from the anus of the world.

This is a hard fight and, as one candidate said, "It is not for the faint of heart." Nor should it be. It is too serious, even though many pundits believe that a candidate should be a chameleon instead of someone who can actually do what he or she says is possible.

Those pundits are wrong. Our country demands that one speak across the divisions of class, style, religion, region, ethnicity and social manner. That is the challenge to every candidate -- and it is big, it is demanding, and it is necessary.

Presidents are neither made in nor on bowling alleys, in nor on hunting trips, at bars, nor behind tall glasses of whiskey. They are not responsible to the manners and eating habits of voters. To pretend otherwise is to ask a candidate to be an actor rather than a convincing politician. Neither FDR nor JFK tried to convince Americans that he was someone different than what he was. Each convinced the country that it could get it out of trouble.

Our country is in the emergency room because it has been nearly crushed under a bus made of -- for starters -- cronyism, incompetence, selling out to big business on one hand and bailing it out to the tune of billions of dollars on the other, inept foreign diplomacy, ignoring a crumbling infrastructure and no serious attempt to better public education. The body politic is a sieve.

Like all profusely bleeding in an emergency room, we need ask and be concerned with one question: Can you stop the bleeding, can you do the job? As president, can you inspire the people around you, in Washington and across the country, to do what is necessary to not only get us out of our present mess, but to realistically assure a future not overburdened by debt and ever in danger of an economy collapsing under a version of greed in which the federal government ends up holding the bag for reckless and ruthless business practices? And, finally, will we have to go far down the tubes before we can figure out how to prepare our young to compete on the highest possible level in a global market?

Stanley Crouch can be reached by e-mail at crouch.stanley@gmail.com.