Candidates On The Best And Worst Of Times

Presidential Questions

In November, Americans decide whether Barack Obama or John McCain becomes the 44th President of the United States. In the series "Presidential Questions," CBS News anchor Katie Couric asks questions that move the candidates well beyond the usual sound-bites. Some questions concern policy. Others are more personal. All will give you a better sense of who these men are - and what has shaped them. What follows is Couric's question and the candidates' full answers.

Katie Couric: What do you think is the best and worst thing that has ever happened to this country?

John McCain: Well, that's an excellent question. Obviously, our founding was the best thing that ever happened to our country, because that was a unique collection of the most wise, informed and incredible individuals who joined together to found our nation and create a document that is still a model to the rest of the world.

Maybe the worst thing that happened to America, in modern times, is the Great Depression. It affected probably more, a greater percentage, of our population than any other economic - or other impact - that we experienced. Literally, half the population, or 40 percent, whatever it was, huge, numbers that are incomprehensible were out of work. And people literally starved in America. And that, we can't ever repeat that.

Barack Obama: The best thing that ever happened to this country was the founding fathers and the starting premise of America. "We hold these truths as self evident that all men are created equal endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights, among these, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." That idea just kept pushing throughout centuries, through a civil war, through civil rights, through women's rights. It became the North Star for people, not just in America but around the world.

The worst probably would have to be slavery in this country. Although the treatment of Native Americans oftentimes … showed great cruelty. You know, but slavery was a stain on this country. Fortunately, we had people like Abraham Lincoln and Harriet Tubman and Dr. King and you know, so many were able to battle through that legacy. And we're still wrestling with it. But it's one where I feel more optimistic about the direction of this country.