Schieffer on Snowe's parting shot

I've never liked it when old people remind us things were better in their day, but here I go:

When I came to Washington back in 1969, things were a mess - the country was divided over Vietnam, and a wave of violence had taken the lives of two Kennedys and Martin Luther King Jr.

Yet, even in those difficult days, the government still functioned, and Congress was a much better place - it still passed significant legislation.

The Senate was a place of giants and a blend of all persuasions - Democrat John Stennis of Mississippi was a conservative; Republican Jake Javits of New York a liberal, Washington's Scoop Jackson was a hardliner on defense and a liberal on social issues.

Democrat Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota was a liberal's liberal, and Republican Barry Goldwater was a hard-core conservative.

They came and they went. But none of them left for the reasons given last week by Olympia Snowe, the moderate Maine Senator who said in so many words she was just tired of fooling with it - that the modern Senate with its "my way or the highway mentality" was no longer the place to accomplish anything.

Snowe is not the first to feel that way lately, just the first to say it aloud.

The Senate will be the worse for her absence, but it will survive. But what does it say about the state of our government and politics when serious people conclude that serving in the United States Senate is no longer worth their time and effort?

That's the part that should worry the rest of us.

  • Bob Schieffer On Twitter»

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

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