PHILADELPHIA - In 1787 the founding fathers gathered at Independence Hall during a crisis in this country, and they wrote the Constitution of the United States.
CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley went to Philadelphia and gathered a panel of people from many walks of life outside Washington. Included on the panel are Mary Frances Berry, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and former Chairperson of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights; Mick Cornett, Mayor of Oklahoma City and President of the Republican Mayors Association; Michelle Rhee, CEO of StudentsFirst and former Chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public school system; John Bogle, founder of the world's largest mutual fund company, the Vanguard Group; Arturo Vargas, the Executive Director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials;
The group of distinguished Americans blamed partisanship, and special interests for what ails Washington. Their message to Washington? Get the deficit deal done, put the country first and show some courage.
Part One of the panel's discussion is below. More will air Tuesday on The Early Show, and on The CBS Evening News.
John Bogle: We, the United States of America are losing our ability to govern ourselves. And if we lose that ability, and we're very close to losing it now, I don't know where we go as a nation. But it's not good.
Scott Pelley: The job approval rating of Congress is 9 percent, the lowest we have ever recorded. Why do people not believe in Washington anymore?
Mick Cornett: I don't think they like the idea that partisanship has taken over Washington, that it seems to matter more if you're an R, a D, rather than if you have a good idea. People look for their leadership to lead. And the leadership has gone away.
Mary Frances Berry: I think it's not because there's partisanship but because nothing seems to happen. So, if they did something that people thought would help them, there would be less concern about who was an R and a D and whatever. Not only are they partisan, they don't really do anything.
Pedro Jose "Joe" Greer, Jr.: It would be nice if our politicians, elected officials, came out with opinions based on facts instead of having opinion and then looking for facts to back them up. Then I think we'd have a little bit more faith in them.
Pelley: Here's what I don't understand. Everywhere we go at CBS News all around the country, we hear the same thing. We hear people saying, there has to be compromise, not left, not right, but forward. What is it that's happening in Washington that prevents that kind of progress?
Matthew Segal: Special interests. It's completely special interests. Because the politicians and our elected officials today, 95 percent of the time, the candidate who raises the most money wins reelection. It's a fundraising game. So, they know that if they can go to certain industries and always be loyal to that industry, they're always going to win their reelection. And I think that demonstrates they only have to be accountable to the people financing them.
Pelley: Jack, you've described Wall Street as a casino. You think people are justified in thinking that part of Wall Street is rigged. What do you do about it? You've been in that business your whole life. How do you stop it?
Bogle: Wire tapping, (laughs) and finding out...
Pelley: Wire tapping is a solution to the problems on Wall Street?
Bogle: Good enforcement is the point I'm really making much more broadly than that.
Pelley: Law enforcement.
Bogle: Law enforcement. Absolutely, and we've gotten, you know, we've had much too much crime, and not enough punishment. And I think if we get a few more people in jail, the message will go out because these executives do not want to go to jail.
Pelley: As this interview goes on the air, the Super Committee working on the deficit will be down to something on the order of three weeks before the deadline. Jack, your message to Washington is what?
Bogle: Get the deal done. Period.
Pelley: Arturo, your message to Washington?
Arturo Vargas: Have some courage. Don't act like it's about the next election. Act like it's about the next generation.
Berry: If the American people would send a message to the Congress right now, everybody who's a voter, "I want this Super Committee to come up with a solution. And I want a recommendation out of them. And I will vote that when the next election comes up," then they will do something.
Pelley: It's the voters' fault?
Berry: It's not a question of fault. If the system is having some trouble working, we, in fact, are part of the problem, too.
Michelle Rhee: When I talk to folks on either side of the party line, in terms of policies, they're actually not that far apart. What's driving them further apart is the politics. So I think that our elected officials actually have to come closer to where their constituents are.
Pelley: Mick, your message to Washington?
Cornett: Think independently and put the country first.
Pelley: Think independently. But you're head of the Republican Mayors Organization in this country.
Cornett: And we individually put our cities before our own personal needs.
Pelley: And you don't believe that's what's happening on Capitol Hill?
Cornett: Absolutely not. They are fundamentally tied to their political parties. They are tied to specific donors. They are tied to special interest groups. They are not putting the interests of the country first.