How has Washington DC changed since you arrived?

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.

  • Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

 

Question: How has Washington changed since your arrival?


George Mitchell: Well, it’s changed dramatically, but of course, change has been the norm throughout American life, throughout our history, not just in politics, so it would be really surprising if it hadn’t changed. That would be news. I think most people think that it has deteriorated- that’s probably a fair assessment, but the process didn’t begin in the last few years. You go back and look at politics in the early years of our country, it was quite rough and tumble. I think what has made it seem more so and 

probably be more so, is the manner of communication, the electronic communication, particularly television, which is now ubiquitous, has had a profound effect, I think, upon not just political life, but all of life. I think it’s a real mistake to look at politics as something separate and apart from the rest of society. It’s a part of our society. It’s influenced by the same factors which affect other parts of society. And so, yeah, I think it has probably gotten a little rougher and more partisan in recent years.

 


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