The first major “controversy” of the 2008 election had Sen. Hillary Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) staff lashing out at her rival, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), after a Hollywood mogul impugned the integrity of Mrs. Clinton and her husband.

At issue were remarks made by David Geffen, the movie business gazillionaire and former Clinton supporter, to New York Times‘ columnist Maureen Dowd following a high profile fund-raiser ($1.3 million) Geffen held for Obama in his home last week.

Geffen characterized Hillary Clinton’s political team’s modus operandi as “very unpleasant and unattractive and effective.” He also related that both Clintons lie “with such ease, it’s troubling.” Geffen said Mrs. Clinton was too scripted and that her husband was “a reckless guy” who had likely remained unchanged over the last three years.

Mrs. Clinton’s communications director Howard Wolfson released a statement saying, “While Senator Obama was denouncing slash-and-burn politics yesterday, his campaign’s finance chair was viciously and personally attacking Senator Clinton and her husband.”

For the record, Wolfson later acknowledged that he was mistaken that Geffen was Obama’s campaign finance chairman.

Less than an hour after Wolfson’s statement, Obama spokesman Bill Burton responded with a statement saying that it was “ironic that the Clintons had no problem with David Geffen” when he was “raising them $18 million and sleeping at their invitation in the Lincoln Bedroom.”

I bring this nonsense up to point out a couple of things, as I’m not convinced that either one of these smart and qualified individuals will get elected to the White House for the simple reason that I don’t think the American electorate is any readier for a female president than it is for an African-American one.

This has less to do with a battle of the issues than it does with the never-ending campaign cycle, as the first primaries are 10 months away, but all the candidates have been acting like a decision will be final by St. Patrick’s Day.

You can thank the dawn of 24-hour news for this development, as there are hours to fill and unlike politics, hurricanes have a season and Anna Nicole Smith can only die once.

The 24/7 campaign season gets compressed further because state legislatures want to be in the business of the earlier primary contests because of the revenue the campaigns generate locally and more candidates opt out of federal matching funds to avoid spending limits.

All of which means that a dark-horse candidacy like Bill Clinton’s in 1992 has no chance anymore and that the public interest is no longer served by the national debate.

Not that there’s been much of a debate over the last 25 years.

The Democratic National Committee’s 2007 winter meeting tried to address this by amending rules so it could give more delegates to the national convention by those states who held later primaries, but no takers so far.

The National Association of Secretaries of State has suggested allowing Iowa and New Hampshire to keep their “first in the nation” status, while organizing the country into four primary contest regions: Eastern, Southern, Midwestern, and Western.

The order in which the regions would hold their respective contest would be rotated, meaning that a region would be first in line every 16 years.

NASS spokesperson Kay Stimson said, “The bottom line is [that] this is a process that’s being dictated by several disparate state legislatures that are acting in their own interest.”

Do we really need a national primary day?

We’re headed that way and the only thing that this will accomplish is the limiting of our right to free speech by limiting our choices.