What do the French know about politics that Americans don't?

They must know something that eludes us. Just look at France's ability to conduct in only a few weeks a presidential election campaign that takes America a year or more to complete.It wasn't until March 22 that President Francois Mitterrand announced his intention to seek a second term in office. The main opponents to the socialist incumbent, Prime Minister Jacques Chirac and former Prime Minister Raymond Barre, have been on the hustings only a couple of weeks.

The preliminary vote is scheduled April 24. If no candidate gets at least 50 precent of the vote in the first round, a runoff between the top two contenders will be held May 8.

Contrast France's performance to the marathon U.S. campaign that still has seven months to go even though many Americans are already tired of it.

Surely the U.S. can find a shorter, less expensive, polarizing, and mind-numbing way of filling the Oval Office. One way to start finding it would be with a careful look at how France does the job.