(CNN)In a year, we'll know who will occupy the Oval Office. Until then, the world seems by turns bemused, befuddled, and bewildered by America's long, colorful and convoluted race for the White House.
The view from abroad: Get it together, America
"I just hope, and I do believe, that the American people do understand that they're electing one of the most serious positions on the planet -- and you've got to have serious people for that," Alastair Campbell, former spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair, told CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.
The Republican debates, he said, feel "incredibly parochial."
"Watching them, you just get the sense sometimes that they're slightly making it up as they go along."
The question on many minds, no doubt inside the U.S. as much as outside, is whether the sustained popularity of political novices like Donald Trump and Ben Carson is the sign of something real and lasting, or a fad among enthusiastic primary voters.
In 2012, Amanpour pointed out, Hermain Cain -- former CEO of Godfather's Pizza -- was a Republican Party frontrunner.
"I'd completely forgotten about the pizza guy that you mentioned," Campbell said -- "totally forgotten about his existence."
Michael D'Antonio, a Donald Trump biographer, said the real estate mogul was nothing more than a "novelty candidate."
"And he has been a novelty persona for 40 years. His relationship with the truth has always been very loose.
"He doesn't have any concern for deep analysis or consideration of issues; what he wants to do is press hot button words.
"So he'll say words like 'rapists' and 'murderers' in reference to Mexican immigrants and the whole idea is just to inflame and incite. It's not to inform."
Trump provided D'Antonio access for "Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success," but later withdrew it.
Running as a Washington outsider -- even for the insiders -- has always been an attractive proposition in an election year; now more than ever, candidates are distancing themselves from the swamp on the Potomac.
"Washington is fundamentally corrupt," Ted Cruz said in Tuesday night's Fox Business/Wall Street Journal debate.
"Washington is out of touch," said Marco Rubio.
"I was in Washington, Iowa, about three months ago talking about how bad Washington, D.C., is," said Jeb Bush -- the brother and son, after all, of former presidents.
"I just think the whole Washington thing's become a cliché," said Campbell. "I mean, you do have to have politicians. They have to be democratic elected; they have to meet somewhere; they happen to meet in Washington."
Even Trump, who bills himself as a businessman who can get things done in Washington, is being disingenuous by presenting himself as an outsider, D'Antonio told Amanpour.
"He actually dabbled in presidential politics in the '80s, again in the '90s; he ran for president in the year 2000. So he's not an outsider; he's not unknown. He is just very inflammatory.
"So it's almost like people being drawn to the site of a burning building: You see this inferno and you want to see what's going on. The trouble that is a country this large, where it's so hard to get attention, it works. And I would not be surprised to see him carry this through to the summer."