Schieffer on events politicians can't control

U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke (seated next to Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng at right) talks on the phone May 2, 2012, in Beijing in this handout photograph provided by the U.S. Embassy Beijing press office.
U.S. Embassy Beijing Press via Getty Images

(CBS News) So now we know who the candidates will be, and how the two sides intend to frame the election.

Republicans will argue it is simply a referendum on a president who couldn't keep his promises.

Democrats will say it is about a Republican who wants only to keep taxes low for his country club friends.

Both sides will go to extraordinary lengths to control the message, but what we (and they) should remember is they cannot control events, as the recent episode with the Chinese dissident reminds us. Who knows where that will go?

In politics, the best laid plans almost never work out.

Nobody talked much about terrorism in the 2000 campaign, the election before 9/11, but terrorism was the overriding issue of George Bush's eight years in the White House.

As the two sides gear up for what promises to be one of our longest (and certainly most expensive) campaigns, there is no shortage of serious problems - jobs, the nation's precarious financial footing, and some possibly dangerous problems overseas. And did I forget a Congress that remains in gridlock?

THESE are the things this campaign should be about.

In the midst of the onslaught of negative advertising which has already begun, is it too much to wish that at least one or two of those things may actually get touched upon before November?

I guess we can always hope . . .

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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.