George John Mitchell is the American special envoy to the Middle East for the Obama administration. A Democrat, Mitchell was a United States Senator who served as the Senate Majority Leader from 1989 to 1995. He was chairman of The Walt Disney Company from March 2004 until January 2007, and was chairman of the international law firm DLA Piper at the time of his appointment as special envoy.
He is the Chancellor of Queen's University in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In 2006, he was asked by the Commissioner of Baseball to lead an investigation of the use of performance-enhancing drugs in professional baseball.
In addition to the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Senator Mitchell has received awards and honors including the Philadelphia Liberty Medal, the Truman Institute Peace Prize, the German Peace Prize and the United Nations (UNESCO) Peace Prize.In the Senate, he was closely associated with free trade and environmental legislation, and with aid to housing and education. He led the successful 1990 reauthorization of the Clean Air Act, including new controls on acid rain toxins. He was the author of the first national oil spill prevention and clean-up law. Mitchell led the Senate to passage of the nation's first child care bill and was principal author of the low income housing tax credit program. He was instrumental in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, landmark legislation extending civil rights protections to the disabled. Mitchell's efforts led to the passage of a higher education bill that expanded opportunities for millions of Americans. Senator Mitchell was also a leader in opening markets to trade and led the Senate to ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement and creation of the World Trade Organization.For six consecutive years he was voted "the most respected member" of the Senate by a bipartisan group of senior congressional aides. In 1994 George Mitchell declined an appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States in order to remain in the Senate and pursue the struggle for universal national health care.
Question: Are the democrats hurting themselves by letting this primary go on so long?
George Mitchell: Well, first off, it’s a mistake to think that if you didn’t have this contest, there wouldn’t be a risk. There’s always a risk in elections. When I first ran, having been appointed to the Senate, I was 36 percentage points behind in the public opinion polls. I’ll never forget it. These are the kinds of things that stick in your mind. The headlines said he has no chance to win. Well, I won the election by a big margin, so anybody who says to you, “Whoa, this is a sure thing, that’s a sure thing.” In my mind, that’s completely wrong. Any election can be won, any can be lost, any candidate can win, any candidate can lose, depending upon what happens. So, let’s remove the central premise of the question, that if you didn’t have a contest, the Democrats would be sure to win. To me, that’s just not true. So then you argue, well, yes, of course they can be hurt. If you have a primary, the benefit is you get a lot of publicity, there’s a lot of focus on them, the downside is that the polls show that substantial numbers of Clinton voters wouldn’t vote for Obama in the fall if he got the nomination, and the reverse. But over time, I think that a very large number of them will come around because the alternative, I think, will be worse. That is, the election of Senator McCain and a Republican to the Presidency, and particularly since you consider that in many respects, the policies being pursued would be those of the current administration, which certainly anybody who’s voted for Obama or Clinton in the primaries wouldn’t be supporting. So, a lot will depend upon how the candidate who doesn’t get the nomination handles it. I think both of them are so committed to the principles that they’re talking about, to the Democratic party, that they will help to heal the wounds once this competitive process is over. Difficult as that can be, because personal ambition, and I say that in a positive, not a pejorative sense, plays a very large role in all of this, of course. That they’ll come around and that the Democratic candidate will prevail in the fall. But there’s no such thing as a sure thing.