In "anything goes" campaigns, some things don't

Online brokerage TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts speaks Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012, during a ceremonial unveiling of his portrait which will hang in company headquarters in Omaha, Neb. Ricketts has been contributing large sums of money to help elect conservatives to Congress and help defeat President Obama. AP Photo/Nati Harnik

I don't want to get carried away here, but two amazing things happened this week.

Congress actually DID something! Second, and perhaps even more unbelievable, political consultants came up with a series of ads so nasty that politicians on both sides DENOUNCED them as too dirty, even for today's campaigns.

The news from the Capitol was that on a bi-partisan vote, the House extended the life of the Export Import Bank, the institution that arranges financing for countries that want to buy U.S. products. A no-brainer in times gone by, but a bi-partisan vote on anything is so unusual these days, the Washington Post put it on the front page.

The other stunner: The New York Times reported Thursday that a billionaire named Joe Ricketts, the founder of TD Ameritrade, had commissioned a series of racially-charged campaign ads tying Barack Obama to the incendiary black power minister Jeremiah Wright in a way, the strategists wrote, "that John McCain would never let us do" in 2008.

The news caused a huge bi-partisan uproar, and in a matter of hours, the potential bankroller withdrew his support, saying it wasn't his style; and Mitt Romney, who is usually very cautious about commenting on any unanticipated event, strongly repudiated the whole idea and said he wanted no part of it.

Well, good for them!

Too soon to know if this signals a trend toward cleaner campaigns - it probably doesn't. But in this era of "anything goes," it's good to know at least a few things still don't.

  • Bob Schieffer On Twitter»

    Bob Schieffer is CBS News' chief Washington correspondent and anchor of Face the Nation.

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