"Face the Nation" transcript: November 27, 2011
Kathryn Stockett, Walter Isaacson, Michael Lewis and Condoleezza Rice (CBS/AP)
BOB SCHIEFFER: Kathryn-- as a-- novelist, somehow who sits back and takes the long view of all of this, what is your sense of where America is right now? It seems to me we're in a kind of a mean time. We seem to have lost patience. We're kind of a fast food society. We demand perfection at every turn, which is never gonna be possible. How does it look to you?
KATHRYN STOCKETT: Well, look. You know, what Michael said I wonder about because nobody's-- throwin' money at me to take out a loan. And-- I-- I live, you know, by my-- my father and my grandfather's standard, and that is you don't pay interest. You pay cash for it if you can, and if you can't then you just don't buy it.
And I know that a lot of Americans don't have that kinda money sittin' around. But-- you know, there was a whole generation that passed us by that used to live that way. You spent what was in your pocket and no more. And I-- I-- I would like to see America go back to those values.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Walter, what do you think's going on right now? Has our culture changed? Has this-- communications revolution that-- Steve Jobs had so much to do with-- has it changed our culture and-- and th-- the way we are?
WALTER ISAACSON: Yeah, at the moment, particularly, we've become very divisive as a culture. We can't get things done. I mean, Steve Jobs used to talk about the difference between leadership in the private sector, where if he wanted to create a new product, he and people would decide what to do. But if he wants to have a factory built in California, it can't be done because there's, you know, just too much to go through, and he ends up outsourcing the jobs.
And we're gonna end up with a country that doesn't really have a great manufacturing base, if we don't watch out, with our education system and our ability to build factories. I think that's easily reversible because we're a very creative culture, we're very imaginative. We know how to do what Steve Jobs did, which is connect imagination to technology. But we have to make sure we're doing that this century like we did last century.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Condi Rice, what about our politics today? There's not much to be proud of there, it seems to me. Where do you-- what do you--
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Yeah.
BOB SCHIEFFER: --see happening here?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Well, I'm afraid that our politics have sort of sped up and gotten very loud. Our politics, our-- our system needs compromise because our system, our institutions, are naturally slow: Divided powers-- two houses of Congress. And it seems to me the ability to reach across the aisle and compromise has become a bit-- a bit jaded-- we've become a bit jaded as a country.
But, you know, I think we've got a deeper problem-- Bob, and it-- it speaks to-- the way that, for instance, I and my family-- got ahead. I think the biggest single problem we've got is the K-12 education system. I'm worried about the deficit, I'm worried about us spending more money-- than we have.
But when I look out there and I see that I can look at your zip code and tell whether or not you're gonna get a good education, that's gonna go right to the core of-- who we are as Americans. And, yes, we will have unemployable people. Yes, we will continue to have the statistic we have now: Only 30 percent of the people who take the basic skills test to get into the military can pass it. But I think it's gonna drive us into-- class warfare like we've never seen because education, even in the segregated South, was always the way that you got out.
BOB SCHIEFFER: I must say, I could not agree more with what you're saying. We're gonna take a break here and we'll come back. And I'm gonna give each of you a chance to ask someone on the panel (MUSIC) a question when we come back.
BOB SCHIEFFER: And we're back with our panel of distinguished authors. They get a chance to turn the tables here. Kitty, your question, and who would it be to?
KATHRYN STOCKETT: To Dr. Rice, absolutely. I'm in the middle of reading your book, and I have to tell you, one of the f-- parts that really rang home with me is when you were at the conference for the Middle East and you set your speech aside and said, "Look, I know what it feels like to be Palestinian and be told that you cannot walk down the highway because of who you are. At the same time, I understand what it feels like to be an Israeli mother and wonder if your house is gonna be bombed and your children will be killed."
And I thought that was just-- that-- that-- it was just so honest of you to expose yourself that way. And my question for you is a question that I receive all the time, and that is are things better today-- among African Americans and-- and whites than they were? And I'm asked that question, and I always feel like that's kinda like-- you know, Walter pinching Michael and someone asking me, "What does that feel like?" But you still have family in Birmingham. What-- what do you think about that?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Well, it's a very good question, and I'm asked it all the time too. And I always say that-- first of all, we're never going to erase-- race as a factor in American life. It is a birth defect with which this country was born out of slavery; we're never really gonna be race blind.
But we have gotten to a place that-- race is not the limiting factor that it once was. I don't think that we necessarily look at someone who's of a different color now and say, "Oh, I know what they are capable of." We have a black president. We've had two black secretaries of state. We have-- black CEOs. Obviously-- African Americans are pushing-- way into territories that w-- probably my grandparents would never have thought possible.
But again, I think it goes back to whether or not race and class, that is race and poverty, is not becoming even more of a constraint. Because with the failing public schools, I worry that the-- the way that my grandparents got out of-- poverty, the way that my parents became educated, is just not gonna be there for a whole bunch of kids. And I do think that race and poverty is still a terrible witch's brew.
BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Michael Lewis, do you have a question for the panel?
MICHAEL LEWIS: Yes. The-- I'd like to-- can I ask everybody one question if-- as lo-- it's a quick question; I'd like a quick answer. (LAUGH) And that is everybody on this panel-- grew up in the South-- and left. Kitty's come back, and everybody's-- everybody's had this experience of leaving the South. Tha-- what I wonder-- I'd love to hear what the other three panelists think would have happened to their lives had they never left where they grew up. What would you have become?
BOB SCHIEFFER: I would answer first and just say I wouldn't have gotten to go to work (LAUGH) at CBS. I-- I mean, the reason I came to Washington is 'cause I was offered a job and I needed the money. That's--
MICHAEL LEWIS: So what would you have been? What--
BOB SCHIEFFER: I-- I don't know.
MICHAEL LEWIS: --would you have been if you'd stayed home?
BOB SCHIEFFER: I-- I have no idea. I suppose I would have worked at the Fort Worth Star Telegram which is where I worked-- before-- before I came north. Walter?
WALTER ISAACSON: Well, you know, m-- Mike, I was down in New Orleans all last week. And you used to say that 100 years ago, New Orleans was a very entrepreneurial culture, and after the storm, perhaps we could get that back. I was surprised at how vibrant and entrepreneurial New Orleans now is. If I had stayed there, obviously I would have been a writer and a journalist. I worked at the Picayune. I would have-- maybe even tried to write fiction, like Kathryn did, but-- wouldn't have been as successful doin' it--
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