You can say what you will about the major candidates for President … and so can our Contributor Ben Stein:
If you look at it up close, the presidential campaign looks like a swirl of bragging and rallies and primaries and caucuses and tears and money.
But if you step back and look at this election through the prism of history, this election looks darned impressive - breathtaking, even.
Just for example ... When I was a child in Maryland in the mid-1950s, if you had started a story about a black man who was running for president, it would have been the setup for a racist joke.
But in Barack Hussein Obama, we have a self-confident, capable, eloquent black man who grew up with terrible burdens, little money, an absent father, and just his own extraordinary abilities. From this, he became a U.S. Senator, and now a juggernaut heading for the White House.
What is this if not a stunning triumph of the human spirit? What is it if not an amazing story of how this magnificent country still offers unlimited opportunity to those bold enough to seize the moment?
And what about John McCain? When I was a law student playing bridge, he was a prisoner of the North Vietnamese, tortured and tormented for six years of horrifying captivity. His life was in danger every moment. Now he is a U.S. Senator from Arizona, a world symbol of courage, and the candidate of the Republican Party for President. This is an even more astounding story of human strength and heroism, and of the country which, he says, inspired his survival in chains.
And what about Hillary? She went through a grueling childhood with a drill Instructor of a father, a harrowing, endless public torment by her famous husband, and still has a shot - to be sure, a long shot - at being the nation's first distaff President. This, too, is a personal triumph.
Now let's be clear: They're politicians and human beings, not saints. None of them. They wear pants, not halos.
But if you can see the forest despite the trees, this is an election about some fine things in humanity: courage, determination and idealism, forged in this still red-hot crucible of the human spirit, the United States of America.
It's a great sight.
Copyright 2008 CBS. All rights reserved.