Weekly commentary by CBS Evening News chief Washington correspondent and Face the Nation host.
When it began, it was a campaign of great expectations.
Two extraordinary candidates. Obama, the son of a Kenyan exchange student, raised by American grandparents.
McCain, a true American hero.
What a statement it could have been to the world, what a learning and inspiring experience it could have been to us, two such very different people giving us their vision for America.
And yet it has come to this: Obama's people trying to denigrate the war hero's military service; McCain's people comparing Obama to a couple of frivolous tarts.
As I watched the latest back and forth over who did or did not inject race into the campaign, I thought back to the political consultant who once told me that he began each political cycle by rereading Machiavelli, who argued the only ethic that should matter to those seeking power was the ethic that benefited them. In other words, the end justified the means.
That's where we are in today's politics; do or say whatever it takes to win the daily news cycle, deal with the collateral damage later.
And that's the part that bothers me -- what comes after all this? I can't help but remember what Gandhi once said -- ends do not justify the means, they reflect the means.
The government we get generally reflects the campaign that produced it. What kind of government can we expect from this one?
This time, it could have been so different.
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By Bob Schieffer