Despite a nuclear Iran looming on the horizon, the media seem to be putting most of their attention on two candidates for their respective parties' presidential nominations next year. Moreover, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump each make their own party nervous.
If next year's election comes down to Clinton versus Trump, a lot of people may simply stay home in disgust.
When we are this far away from the official start of the primary election season, we can usually just say, "It's still early days." Many a front runner this early in the process ended up out of the running by the time the party conventions were held, and totally forgotten by election day.
That is the way it usually is. But that is not likely to be the way it will be this time.
This is Hillary Clinton's last hurrah. It is now or never for her. And the Democrats have nobody comparable as a vote-getter to put in her place.
Even if an investigation finds Mrs. Clinton found guilty of violating the law in the way she handled e-mails when she was Secretary of State, the Obama administration is not likely to prosecute her. And President Obama can always pardon her, so that the next administration cannot prosecute her either. So Hillary doesn't even have to take a plea bargain.
Someone with a sense of shame might well withdraw from the contest for the Democratic Party's nomination, now that public opinion polls show that most people distrust her. But since when have the Clintons ever had a sense of shame?
On the Republican side, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has pointed out that if Donald Trump can continue to get 20 or 25 percent of the Republican voters on his side, he can build up a formidable lead of delegates in winner-take-all primaries.
It will not matter if 60 percent of the Republican voters turn against him, if that 60 percent is split up among all the other Republican candidates, with none of those candidates getting more votes than Trump.
Sometimes financial backers can withdraw their support and force a stubborn candidate to drop out of the race. But Trump has enough money of his own to stay in the race as long as he wants to, even if that ruins the Republicans' chances of winning the 2016 elections.
Ironically, the Republicans have a much stronger set of presidential candidates than usual to choose from this year. But the media obsession with Trump means that even the best of these candidates are not likely to get enough exposure for most voters to get to know much about them.
Governors with superb records — such as Bobby Jindal in Louisiana and Scott Walker in Wisconsin — may not have much name recognition on the national scene. And certainly the little sound bites in the so-called "debates" are not likely to tell the voters much.
This is not just the candidates' problem. With this country facing historic dangers, both internally and internationally, we urgently need to find someone with depth, insight and courage as the next President of the United States.
But, with the media obsessed with Donald Trump's show biz talents and persona — and covering everything he says, does or might do, 24/7 — how are the voters to sort through the large number of Republican candidates to find a couple that are worth getting to know more thoroughly?
It will be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. And never was finding that needle, the right leader, more important for the nation.
Internally, we are so polarized over immigration that our current "leaders" have left our borders wide open to terrorists from around the world, rather than take the political risks of offending voters on one side of this issue or offending voters on the opposite side. Instead, they risk American lives by their inaction.
Internationally, our "leaders" have written a blank check for our most dangerous and fanatical enemy — Iran — to get both nuclear bombs and the missiles to deliver them. And the Obama administration, with a track record of huge shameless lies, offers us its reassurances.
We had better find that needle in a haystack, someone who can salvage a desperate situation. Flamboyant rhetoric is not enough.
Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is www.tsowell.com. To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.