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: How should the next president address the economy?
George Mitchell: Well, I think all of the candidates have laid out economic problems. I’m a Democrat, and I will support the Democratic nominee, and I believe that both of the remaining Democratic candidates, Senator Clinton and Senator Obama, have laid out economic programs, which I think probably represent the right approach for the country. We have this problem of this staggering deficit and while all three of them have made proposals that will probably result in an increase, the proposals made by Senator McCain will have a spectacular increase in the deficit, if they’re all put into place, as proposed. It’s really kind of amazing, given the history of politics with respect to the deficit. When I was in the Senate, from 1980 to 1995, there was a lot of concern about the deficit, and Republicans were the most concerned. They made huge issues of it, and I can remember when we were talking about a deficit of a hundred billion dollars, it was like the sky was falling. And we dealt with it. With President Bush, we had very protracted and contentious budget negotiations. You remember his famous pledge about raising taxes, “Read my lips” and then, of course, he proposed raising taxes, with which we agreed. And then President Clinton dealt with it, I think, most effectively in his 1993 budget, which we passed by a single vote. Every single Republican in the Congress, every single one, House and Senate, voted against it, and every one of them predicted that if Clinton’s budget passed, there’d be a recession, there’d be high interest rates, high unemployment, the economy would tank, deficits would rise, and of course the exact opposite occurred. There were other factors, as well, government policy doesn’t operate in a vacuum and by itself doesn’t decide what happens in economic affairs, but it was a significant step forward and I think that’s something that the next President should deal with, along with the economic growth package I was talking about.