Schieffer: Blurring The Lines

Remember when every grandmother was convinced her grandson could be president some day and how fathers used to say that their daughter would one day be the first woman elected to the oval office?

Well, it does seem like a long time ago, doesn't it? Because these days we shield the children from politics, let alone encourage them to become involved. Surely the tawdriness of the Clinton White House is part of that, but the reasons may run even deeper, and this is the part that worries me as we head to a new election.

Political debate has become so mean, so partisan, and so divorced from things that affect people's lives that I suspect many of us no longer believe politics really matters.

Like professional wrestling, which continues to get cable television's highest ratings, politics has become an entertainment on TV with little impact beyond that. Like wrestling, people know the political blather is mostly phony. They find it mildly amusing at times, but they no longer take it seriously.

So it is no wonder that professional wrestlers can become elected officials and no wonder that that leads celebrities like Donald Trump and Cybil Shepard and Warren Beatty to see the presidency as their next logical career move. They see themselves as show business's new crossover stars, like country singers who switch to pop tunes.

I wouldn't question for a minute their right to run, but what bothers me is what we become. We've come to expect so little of our public officials that when a show business star announces out of the blue that he or she is thinking of running for president, no one asks anymore, "Are you joking?"