Schieffer talked to an audience of students, faculty, staff and community members that packed the auditorium of Moudy North. Not only were the seats filled, but people also sat on the stairs and stood along the walls to hear Schieffer’s perspective on the state of American politics following the bruising presidential election.
Schieffer spent much of the hour fielding questions from students and others in the audience. But the first portion of the evening was devoted to a question and answer session between Schieffer and Dr. Kris Bunton, dean of the college of communication, which bears Schieffer’s name. Here are some of Schieffer’s thoughts:
Q: How did it come down to the choice that we wound up with?
Schieffer: Our whole electoral system has basically collapsed. On the Democratic side, the third oldest party, only ended up with one candidate. You all should put serious thought on whether you might want to run for public office someday. It is going to talk a whole new group to turn this around.
Q: What grade would you give the media in this campaign?
Schieffer: My part of the media did pretty well. I think the mainstream media did pretty well. The problem is that we have fake news now. We first began to see this in 9/11 in the mainstream media when it was reported that a plane was headed to the Sears tower in Chicago, which was not true. That day we learned you can not let this go unanswered. Now, because news goes around the world in seconds, you have to knock down these stories in order to avoid pandemonium. Report the truth as accurately as we can and knock down false stories. During this campaign, you can’t keep up with it. For example, Trump’s quote calling Republicans dumb? Fake. People take him seriously but not literally.
Q: Clinton’s emails?
Schieffer: It did have an impact, but the reason why she lost in the end is because people wanted change. What I could never understand is why was there not someone around her telling her that she wouldn’t want to do this and that it wasn’t worth the trouble that it would cause.
Q: Trump has won the election. Now, who have we really elected?
Schieffer: He can be very personable. He can be childish. Who sits around at 3 a.m.? He was not a very good politician. When the FBI director was telling a story, Trump called light to Saddam Hussein. Who does that? But he figured out that people were very upset. I really don’t know. There have been times that he has been nice to me and times when has has not. But he’s a salesman. Many times he says whatever he needs to say to close the deal. There is nothing illegal about that, but that’s the best answer I can give about that.
Q: How are world leaders reacting?
Schieffer: They don’t know what is going to happen, but they are ready. Last week the Japanese prime minister came to the U.S. to find out what the deal was. He wanted to know what Trump thought about the relationship with Japan. I don’t know what they are thinking and I think a lot of world leaders are reacting, and that is not good. Again, this unusual campaign — we have never had a transition like this.
Q: Ignorance. What might the future generation be able to do to prevent this?
Schieffer: The truth always helps. We just have to stay at it. Young people have to understand that this about you and about all of you here and it’s not something that … the role of government is to improve the lives of citizens. It is not meant to be entertaining or anything. We have to demand that our public officials represent that for us. This was not a record vote turnout like people had said.