CBS News correspondent Bob Schieffer has become the dean of Washington reporters after more than 40 years covering the town for CBS News. Schieffer is a wonderful man who plays it straight as a journalist, seldom offering his own opinion. Sunday was an exception.
Schieffer is the anchor of the CBS News public affairs program, "Face the Nation." The guest this past Sunday was businessman Herman Cain, the Republican frontrunner for that party's presidential nomination. Cain's campaign had recently produced a political ad that ended with Cain's chief of staff, Mark Block, puffing on a cigarette. The ad has gone viral, but it has also raised plenty of questions.
Schieffer asked Cain to explain the ad, in particular the peculiar ending. Cain laughed it off, saying, “One of the themes of this campaign is ‘Let Herman be Herman.’ Mark Block is a smoker, and we say ‘Let Mark be Mark.’ That’s all we’re trying to say, because we believe ‘let people be people.’”
At this point Schieffer went right after Cain. “It wasn’t funny to me… I am a cancer survivor, like you. I had cancer that’s smoking related. I don’t think it serves the country well, and this is an editorial opinion here, to be showing someone smoking a cigarette." Schieffer continued, "And you’re the frontrunner now, and it seems to me that as frontrunner, you have a responsibility not to take that kind of a tone with this. I would suggest that perhaps as the frontrunner you would want to raise the level of the campaign.”
Cain sat composed but clearly stunned. Schieffer then directed Cain to admit that smoking was "uncool" and to warn young Americans not to start. Cain said he would, but Schieffer said how about now? "Young Americans," Cain said, "don't smoke."
Recently "Face the Nation" has finished atop the ratings for Sunday public affairs programs. Although it is only a half-hour in length, the broadcast lands impressive guests every week. Schieffer's Texas drawl and pleasant demeanor are part of the draw. But of greatest note is Schieffer's incredible experience and knowledge about Washington and politics. Therefore, his questions are well focused and the guest's answers are most often revealing and informative.
"Face the Nation" will be an important place for viewers to turn during the 2012 presidential elections for the latest insight from CBS News correspondent Bob Schieffer, arguably the best in the business.