THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: MICHAEL STEELE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; MONICA CROWLEY, SYNDICATED RADIO COMMENTATOR; MORT ZUCKERMAN, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT TAPED: FRIDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2008 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 6-7, 2008
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Security Cabinet.
In Mumbai, formerly Bombay, 10 heavily armed young men walk into two luxury hotels and a restaurant and a hospital and a railway station. They indiscriminately fire machine guns into the crowds, throw grenades, take and hold hostages for -- get this -- two and a half days, 60 hours. They kill at least 195 people. They wound another 300 people. That was overseas last week in India.
In the U.S. this week, an official report on weapons of mass destruction was put before Congress. The central conclusion of that report is that the U.S. will be attacked by a bacteriological or nuclear bomb within five years. With this news in the headlines, President-elect Obama appointed his national security team. The team will probably be in place to handle any such attack on our nation.
Hillary Clinton, State.
HILLARY CLINTON (secretary-designate, Department of State): (From videotape.) The fate of our nation and the future of our children will be forged in the crucible of these global challenges.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Robert Gates, Defense.
ROBERT GATES (Defense secretary): (From videotape.) We are engaged in two wars and face other serious challenges at home and around the world.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security.
JANET NAPOLITANO (Secretary-designate, Department of Homeland Security): (From videotape.) It will be my job and the job of this team to hold ourselves and our agencies accountable, to coordinate fully across the spectrum of government agencies.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: James Jones, national security adviser, a Marine general, retired.
GEN. JAMES JONES (Ret., national security adviser-designate): (From videotape.) National security in the 21st century comprises a portfolio which includes all elements of our national power towards the desired goal of keeping our nation safe.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Susan Rice, United Nations ambassador, a post that President-elect Obama will re-Cabinetize.
SUSAN RICE (U.N. ambassador-designate): (From videotape.) The United Nations was, in major part, America's creation. Mr. President- elect, I share your commitment to rededicate ourselves to the organization and its mission.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Are these Cabinet appointments a change Cabinet or a continuity Cabinet? I ask you, Michael Steele. And welcome, Michael.
MR. STEELE: Thank you very much. It is about as continuitous as you can get. There is no change here. This is actually the Bush third term on foreign policy, as far as I'm concerned. Obama has settled, I guess, into the reality that "Yeah, gee, the surge worked. Conditions on the ground do matter. And I've got to listen to these generals and I've got to put people in charge who understand how that matrix works." He has not gone to his left on foreign policy, as his rhetoric was during the campaign. He has come to the center-right on this issue, where Bush was since the surge. And I think this is a phenomenal depression point for a lot of the left right now, because they're not seeing this move to leave Iraq in 16 months. We're going to be here, folks, through at least 2011.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does this bipartisan consensus Cabinet reflect changes that came in in 1991 after the Cold War?
MR. STEELE: Yeah, I think it does. I think, to a certain extent, you see, since the ending of the Cold War, trying to figure out what the new politicals, certainly the geopolitical landscape looks like, what the military landscape looks like globally. And I the United States, for the last seven or eight years, is trying to find its footing here in the Middle East, in Asia and the like.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: These are all Washington entrenched insiders. Do you think Obama could have selected someone or people who might have been original thinkers?
MS. CLIFT: Well, first of all, I want to welcome Michael. I'm used to countering Republican talking points, but now I've got a contender for the Republican Party chairmanship seated in the prime chair.
MR. STEELE: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How's that going, Michael?
MR. STEELE: It's going very well -- swimmingly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's on track?
MR. STEELE: It's on track.
MS. CLIFT: This is change from the last eight years. Granted, it hearkens back to the Clinton years. But as Hillary said during the primaries, "What didn't you like about the Clinton years, the peace or the prosperity?" And these people are more hawkish and they're more experienced, certainly, than Barack Obama. And I think they're very reassuring to the country.
He's getting high marks for the people he's putting in place. And for my take, as somebody who is center-left, they are people who will implement his vision, his ideas. He's the president. And they give him a great deal of political cover if you could have the former Republican Defense chief in your camp overseeing the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who is center-left?
MS. CLIFT: How much better can it get? MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you center-left?
MS. CLIFT: At least. (Laughter.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Thanks for clearing that up.
Okay, the security team. Obama says he's happy with his security team. It taps all the sources of American power.
PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) We must pursue a new strategy that skillfully uses, balances and integrates all elements of American power -- our military and diplomacy, our intelligence and law enforcement, our economy and the power of our moral example.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Obama telegraphing Hillary's job description as secretary of State? I ask you.
MS. CROWLEY: Well, I think he's telegraphing how he wants his entire national security team to operate, as an integrated unit, not just the secretary of State but the secretary of Defense, the National Security Agency, the national security adviser, and so on.
But I agree with Michael. I mean, when you take a look at this team, what it actually says, what it actually telegraphs, is Bush was right. He's got Bush's Defense secretary staying in, who oversaw the surge, which Obama opposed. He's got Hillary Clinton as secretary of State, who voted for the war in Iraq and defended her vote and never apologized for it.
And the great irony here is that Barack Obama is going to inherit a victory in Iraq where he opposed the war all along. And he's going to inherit -- if trends continue in Iraq and the Middle East, he is going to inherit a revolutionized and a different Middle East, with an operational democracy in the heart of the Arab world. And that benefit is going to redound to Obama's administration.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He chose insiders and career politicians, and he belittled -- maybe that's too strong a word -- the role of experience in this office. What do you make of that?
MS. CROWLEY: The role of experience in the presidency, you mean -- except now he's taken people who do have experience -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes. What do you make of that?
MS. CROWLEY: -- Robert Gates, Hillary Clinton.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does that show you how smart he is, that he can ignore --
MS. CROWLEY: Well, it shows me --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- his own statements?
MS. CROWLEY: It shows me that he's secure as a politician in that he's not afraid to surround himself with people who are smarter than he is on certain issues.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What else does it show, Mort?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, it shows that he's pragmatic, which I think is the key issue here. I mean, there's no point in coming up with a theoretical or ideological view of the world. You've got to find people who understand the world and who can make it work more or less in the direction that he's setting.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And in the combination of Gates and Clinton, I think he's going to be able to do that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm glad you brought that up. What rules Obama? Pragmatism rules Obama.
PRESIDENT-ELECT OBAMA: (From videotape.) They share my pragmatism about the use of power.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Does American pragmatism contradict American exceptionalism? Isn't that what we're supposed to be?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely not. What is exceptional, or what is American exceptionalism, in fact, is its pragmatism and is its ability to adapt. And that is what we have always been much better at than almost any other country. And the less ideological we are in this time, the better we're going to be.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about first among equals? Can't we at least have that?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, yes, but you don't have to flaunt that with the rest of the world. You're trying to, in a sense -- now, we are in a global situation where we have to bring a lot of countries along with us. We can't do it all by ourselves. And basically he's sort of paying lip service to that idea. And it's the right idea. I'm not saying it's always going to work. And we will do what we have to, even if the rest of the world doesn't follow us. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I get the impression he's talking about the bedrock philosophy of his administration, as far as foreign policy is concerned.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And the bedrock philosophy is pragmatism.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pragmatism means that truth is based in part upon the consequences. It's much more action-oriented, and it ignores metaphysics.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Didn't Obama strike you, when he was going through the election, that he had a metaphysical outlook more than he had a --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: If there ever was --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- pragmatic outlook?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: If there ever was a pragmatic politician, it's Obama.
MS. CLIFT: Absolutely.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: You know, and by the way --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is pragmatism crude?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I don't think it's crude. What works at this stage of the game is going to be very important for the United States.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, really?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So if it works, it's okay?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. If it works, it's okay. When I say works, if it works in the interest of the United States. And that's what he has to think about.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Isn't that what Reverend Wright told us, that whatever it takes, Obama will do?
MS. CLIFT: This is the only place in America that we're still talking about Reverend Wright. Look, I would be careful about all this triumphalism about "George Bush was right." Barack Obama is inheriting a global situation with two wars and attitudes towards America at rock-bottom. We've lost a lot of economic power. He is walking in with the attitude that George W. Bush had in 2000 of a humble foreign policy, and that is completely appropriate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: For the --
MS. CLIFT: And triumphalism about Iraq -- you know, I don't think anybody --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's make sure we understand --
MS. CROWLEY: I didn't say a triumph, Eleanor. I was talking about the successes on the ground that have allowed the kind of latitude that Obama is going to have here. That's what I said.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's make sure we understand Barack Obama. He's our new president. Okay, a leader, not the leader. How does Obama see America's leadership in the world, as that of a leader or as that of the leader?
PRESIDENT-ELECT OBAMA: (From videotape.) And my sense of purpose about America's role as a leader in the world.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He uses that language -- "a leader."
MR. STEELE: Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "A leader in the world." We're one of several.
MR. STEELE: That's right. We're one of several. And that means that we sit around and we'll negotiate and decide amongst the equals which direction we should go globally. And I think that America's posture and position should be, as it always has been, the leader in setting the pace, in setting the direction.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think the mood of America is right now? Is it with Obama, that we've been too -- well, you know, I'm paraphrasing; this doesn't necessarily reflect his views -- that we have been too assertive in the past and that we are a leader and that we're going to work with --
MR. STEELE: I think America -- MS. CLIFT: You're paraphrasing to the point of falsity. You're paraphrasing to the point of falsity.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you hear the text of what he said?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.
MS. CLIFT: He thinks we haven't been assertive enough in certain areas of the world, like the Middle East, like the Israeli-Palestinian problem.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But what does that mean?
MS. CLIFT: He's not withdrawing --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does that mean?
MS. CLIFT: He's not withdrawing from the world.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't know of any recent president who has described --
MS. CLIFT: The debate over an "a" or a "the" --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- our leadership in the world as that of a leader among many. Have you?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I don't. But let me just say this. We are in a lot of trouble in a lot of different places in the world. We have a lot of trouble getting a lot of allies to go along with us. You don't have to push the fact into their faces that we are the leader. It is perfectly all right if you say "a leader," because, in fact, we are the only sort of spoon that can stir the pot in international affairs. So we are, by definition, the leader. And you don't have to repeat it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, we started off this discussion with the fact that pragmatism is the bedrock of his --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Number one, pragmatism.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Number two, we're a leader in the world; we're not the leader in the world.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, let me just say that that's a very diplomatic way of putting things, and I think he's right to do it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, so it's diplomacy. MR. ZUCKERMAN: Of course it's diplomacy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where's the diplomacy?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, it is one of --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he characterizing our leadership in the world, or is he being diplomatic to the world?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: We do not have the kind of overwhelming political or military leadership that we once had in the world.
MR. STEELE: I think he's characterizing our leadership to the world.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Of course, being a leader also entitles you to be the leader. You're not excluding that by saying "a leader."
MR. STEELE: Right. You're not excluding that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you are the leader, you're also a leader, correct?
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Obama could figure that out, couldn't he?
MR. STEELE: Well, he could figure that out. But the question --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I wouldn't call that a brilliant insight, John. I appreciate your comment. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pragmatism is what we have --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, that's what it's about.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- we have seen here at work.
Go ahead. I want to hear from you.
MS. CROWLEY: Here's what I think his phraseology reveals, and this is what I think you're getting at, that when he says -- when he refers to the United States as a leader rather than the leader, he sees himself as a manager of an American decline -- economic situation a total mess, America's position in the world diminished. And he looks at it as, "Okay, I'm going to be the management of this new world that is now a multipolar world."
We've gone from a bipolar world to a unipolar world, with the United States at the top. Now it's a multipolar world with all of these other countries -- India, Russia now, Venezuela coming up, China certainly -- that the portfolio of power does not strictly belong to the United States anymore. Now, I want a president who's going to fight that tooth and nail, try to get our economy back and our position in the world back. The question is, what kind of approach is going to do? Is he going to accept American decline or is he going to fight it?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. If he had said, "We are going to be the leader in the world," it would have been more boffing on the side of the rest of the world, because they don't like that. And they see that, for example, in Latin America, they now believe that our economic crisis here is what's causing their economic crisis. So he can't be as assertive as previous presidents were.
MS. CROWLEY: Economically, militarily, his options are certainly constrained. That is true.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So this was the pragmatic --
MS. CROWLEY: But what they want to hear from him is --
MS. CLIFT: But to cast that as --
MS. CROWLEY: He's got a situation now that is constraining his choices and the United States's choices, freedom to act in --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, excellent point.
MS. CLIFT: But to cast him as a manager of decline is to really marginalize the man who's been elected to lead this country and who is --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question --
MS. CLIFT: -- and who is respected around the world, who has a moral --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, we've got to get out. Exit --
MS. CLIFT: -- has a moral bully pulpit unlike anything you could ever dream of. MS. CROWLEY: You completely mischaracterized what I said.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Assign a grade from A to F on the caliber of Obama's national security appointees. Michael.
MR. STEELE: B, solid B.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: B.
MR. STEELE: Solid B.
MS. CLIFT: I'm with Henry Kissinger, who gives it an A.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Henry's from that whole era.
MS. CLIFT: Oh, that's yesterday. Okay. So we don't respect anybody in either party from the past? This has to be a whole new reinvention?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, first of all, do journalists respect anybody? (Laughter.) Is that our function? Is that our role?
MS. CLIFT: This is a quality team.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead.
MS. CROWLEY: I like Henry Kissinger. I would give his choices a B, but --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does Henry know the way you feel about him?
MS. CROWLEY: Henry knows that I love him. But I would give it a B because I don't think there are any original thinkers, as you pointed out, no visionaries like Henry Kissinger to bring Obama along.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's the only original thinker, so to speak, on that panel?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I will give him an A.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Larry Summers?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no, he's not -- we're talking --
MS. CROWLEY: That's on the economic team.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's on the economy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm talking about this group.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Bob Gates. Robert Gates is an outstanding public servant, outstanding secretary of Defense. MS. CLIFT: I would agree.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely, overwhelmingly talented man.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you give the whole panel? Let's get a grade.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I give it an A. For sure it's an A.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is it's an A.
Issue Two: Bailout Now Versus Death Soon.
GM, Ford, Chrysler, America's three largest automakers, appealed to Congress this week to save their lives and to save the American people from paralyzing hardship coast to coast. Absent such assistance, the company will default in the near term, very likely precipitating a total collapse of the domestic industry and its extensive supply chain, with a ripple effect that will have severe long-term consequences to the U.S. economy.
Question: AT&T is laying off 12,000 workers, 4 percent of its workforce. Hewlett Packard is sending 24,000 high-tech jobs overseas. Why do the automakers and the UAW have priority when it comes to getting bailed out while other industries and workers have to take their lumps? I ask you, Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Well, all of this is a human tragedy that we're watching unfold. But the auto industry is tied into approximately, depending whose analysis you buy, between 2 (million) and 4 million jobs because of all the dealerships, the parts, plus our domestic auto industry has national security implications. Who do you think made all the tanks and the trucks during World War II? I don't think we want to give up that manufacturing capability.
And so I think the auto heads have come to Washington with some credible plans about how they intend to retool their industries. I think GM in particular has 10 percent of the Chinese market now and they do have a potential for growth. And I think that this would be money well spent, because I don't think the economy could handle the body blow if these industries went under.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, the bear market blues. Mort, give us the outlook.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, in the first place, I have to say I couldn't disagree more strongly with what Eleanor just said. Fifty- two percent of American cars are manufactured by the non-big three. So our automobile industry isn't going to go bust. This doesn't mean that I don't think we should help them out, but it should be on a plan that makes sure that they are viable so we're not pouring money down a rat hole. Now, as far as the overall economy and the market, we are still having a terribly difficult time. The unemployment numbers that came out this past week -- 533,000 jobs lost, and they raised the October and September numbers so that we lost 1,200,000 jobs in three months -- I mean, that's disastrous for this economy. It's going to scare all the consumers.
And we are looking at a very, very difficult time in the economy, which is not going to end now for quite a period of time until we turn this around.
And nobody knows where the bottom is. And even worse, nobody knows how to stop this. Nobody knows how to solve these problems, because we have a credit crunch that is really the most devastating blow. And credit is based on the Latin word credere, which means to believe. And nobody believes anymore. Confidence is shattered.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before we drown in this sea of Mort's melancholy, can I point out to you that Ronald Reagan went through the savings and loan crisis in '87 and he got a bailout of about $400 billion, which, at an adjusted rate for today, would be about $700 billion.
MR. STEELE: That's right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think hundreds of savings and loans were shut down. We got through that.
MR. STEELE: We did.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we going to get through this? Do you think he's too pessimistic?
MR. STEELE: No, actually, I don't think Mort is pessimistic enough.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?
MR. STEELE: I think that there's still some more bottom there to be discovered, and that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we close to that bottom?
MR. STEELE: We may be at the halfway point in a free fall here. And I'll tell you why, because the American people -- Mort's dead on. The American people have lost confidence in this economy, and most especially they've lost confidence in the leadership of this country to deal with this economy.
When you get guys getting off of their jets with their cup in hand saying, "Give me, give me, give me," and they're not taking responsibility for what brought us to this point, when you have members of Congress who sat back five, seven years ago when they were told, "Freddie and Fannie are problematic; we've got to deal with it," and said, "No, things are great, no problem," people have lost confidence. And until the American people buy into the economy, they will not buy from the economy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I've got one quick question for you. Do you see Obama's Cabinet, his economy Cabinet, as doing anything to restore the confidence?
MR. STEELE: No. The economy Cabinet right now are hoping Bush gets it done before they show up.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Michael.
MR. STEELE: The Republican Party a year from now will look dramatically different from what it does today.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean better.
MR. STEELE: Better.
MS. CROWLEY: I hope so.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Hillary's New York Senate seat is Caroline Kennedy's if she wants it.
MS. CROWLEY: Between the dramatic falls in combat deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan and the economic situation, military recruitment will spike.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Obama's going to revolutionize the way the White House communicates with the American public. He's adding 10 million names to the White House list, and he's going to communicate on the Web, and it's going to transform the way he exchanges with the American public.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predict that the next big thing will be Latin America, the scale and intensity of its economic crisis.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Cringe Words.
Steal, cheat, lie. That's what U.S. teenagers are doing -- and get this -- at a rate higher than their predecessors. A survey of 30,000 high school students says that ethical moral standards of teenagers are worsening: Steal -- 30 percent. Lie -- 42 percent. Cheat -- 64 percent. Two years ago: Steal -- 48 percent. Lie -- 39 percent. Cheat -- 60 percent. Question: Is this a natural adaptation to social and economic change? Are lying, cheating and stealing skills America's young will need to compete in the global economy? I ask you, Monica.
MS. CROWLEY: Are they skills? I don't think that they're skills. Maybe the kids are actually being more honest about the lying, cheating and stealing in this most recent poll than they have been in the past.
Look, I think that there are bigger cultural signals being sent to our kids here. You know, when they look at corporate chieftains who are getting bailed out after illegal, unethical or reckless behaviors, companies getting bailed out, politicians who engage in reckless behavior and just get a slap on the wrist, parents who may not be reinforcing strong moral messages and faith and values and that sort of thing, these kids look at that and say, "I'm in a culture where this kind of behavior gets rewarded. I don't have to excuse it because nobody else will."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, gender. Boys are more unethical, immoral in stealing -- 35 percent of boys, 26 percent of girls; lying -- 49 percent boys, 36 percent girls; cheating -- the numbers are flat. Boys cheat as much as girls, and girls cheat as much as boys.
Despite these numbers, teens still think everything is okay -- 93 percent satisfied; 77 percent, they are behaving better than their friends.
What do you make of this, Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Not very much. I actually think the current younger generation, the millennials, are a terrific generation. They're more engaged. They volunteer more. They may be a burst of honesty here in confessing to these minor things. And I think boys have always been more macho than girls, and to say, "Hey, I stole" is part of being -- you know, passing the teenage test of manhood, I think. I just wouldn't read a lot of -- I'm not worried about the young generation.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, to carry your point forward --
MS. CLIFT: Okay.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- you said there was honesty here, perhaps. That means truthfulness.
MS. CLIFT: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So if they're more truthful than an earlier generation, that's a plus.
MS. CLIFT: Well, I remember Jimmy Carter running on the fact that he had never told a lie, and reporters badgered his mother, the legendary Miss Lillian, who finally conceded maybe he had told a little white lie. And when she was pressed to say what it was, she told a reporter, like when she walked in the room, and Miss Lillian said she was glad to see her. I mean, I think everybody tells those little white lies. I think this is a burst of honesty.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, speak for yourself, Eleanor. (Laughter.) Some of us have standards that are impeccable.
Okay, so do teenagers themselves deserve any blame?
"I would take these students over other generations. I've found them to be more responsive, more rewarding to work with, more appreciative of support that adults give them." So says Mel Riddile of the National Association of Secondary Schools. He sees upward- arching social expectation putting intense and apparently irresistible pressure on students.
Well, if the teenagers themselves are not to blame, who is? Riddile says technology. "There are more ways for students to cheat, particularly using e-mail, cell phones and text messaging."
Why are you rolling your eyes?
MR. STEELE: Oh, give me a break. This is absolutely crazy talk. I can't believe he actually said that, you know, they're more responsive. They're stealing, they're cheating, they're lying, for goodness' sake. They'll get a job on Wall Street in 15 years and we'll be sitting on a program like this complaining about their cheating, lying and stealing.
Where did that come from? It came from the fact that there is no moral ethical grounding for these kids today. This is a generation that seems themselves, their lives, their communications in 30-second sound bites. There are no consequences. There are no results. It is what it is.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are they culpable?
MR. STEELE: Of course, they're culpable. But no one's told them they are.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It sounds like society is culpable.
MR. STEELE: Exactly. And it's not just society, but it is the society of the home as well. What's going -- I've got a 20-year-old. Have a conversation with a 20-year-old today; you'd better get it done in 30 seconds. Otherwise it ain't getting done.
MS. CROWLEY: (Laughs.)
MR. STEELE: That's the reality of today. This is where -- their head is in a totally different place. And we as family, we as community, have to help reorient their thinking. Lying, cheating and stealing is wrong.