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Schieffer: No way to run a superpower

FILE - In this Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013, file photo, the dome of the Capitol is reflected in a skylight of the Capitol Visitor's Center in Washington. By delaying hard choices on spending, the fiscal cliff deal guaranteed more confrontation and uncertainty this year, especially when Congress must vote later this winter to raise the governmentâ
File,AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

(CBS News) Last week I heard the Senate Chaplin pray for help to "save us from ourselves." I would guess a lot of Americans are praying to save us from THEM -- "them" being official Washington.

What we saw last week was the complete breakdown of the American political system, and a government --an administration, a Senate and a House -- that has lost the political will and, yes, the political competence to fix it.

The so-called sequestration was designed to inflict such horrible cuts in federal spending that no one with half a brain would allow them to happen. This, the theory went, would leave Congress and the White House no alternative but to find sensible ways to put the country's finances in order.

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I would never say the majority of people in Washington have less than half a brain, but the fact is, sequestration DID happen.

It is as if Washington has separated itself from the rest of America in order to spend its time on things of concern only here -- score settling, fundraising, blame-gaming -- while leaving the rest of the country to fend for itself.

I don't know where this goes, but I do know it is not how America became a superpower -- and if history is a guide, certainly no way to remain one.

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