Schieffer: America becoming a tougher sell to the world

(CBS News) America has always led best when we lead by example. We built the greatest arsenal of weapons the world has ever known during the Cold War, and those weapons kept the Soviet Union at bay.

But it was not the weapons that won the Cold War. It was the example we set.

Uncle Sam hawks "American Defense," in a Terry Gilliam animation from "Monty Python's Flying Circus" (1970).
Python Productions

When the people on the other side of the Iron Curtain were finally able to look across it, they saw that our system provided a better life, and so the wall came down. They didn't want rockets and bombs -- they wanted dishwashers and better schools.

The Communist system couldn't provide it; our system could. They wanted the American model.

But as I look at the growing list of things Washington has made a mess of lately -- immigration reform, food stamps, farm aid, student loans, deficit reduction, a tax system (regardless of its fairness or unfairness) so complex no one can understand it, a health care plan that even the administration that passed it can't figure out how to administer, an Air Force where a third of the combat squadrons are grounded because Congress can't figure out how to fund them -- I have to wonder: Who would want to be like that?

In this day when we are telling others how to run their countries, what do other countries think of the model we are currently presenting?

I still think America is the greatest country in the world, but convincing others of that is probably a harder sell than it used to be.

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    Bob Schieffer is a CBS News political contributor and former anchor of "Face The Nation," which he moderated for 24 years before retiring in 2015.