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Question: What will it take to bridge the partisan rift in Congress?

 

George Mitchell: Oh, I think there’ll be ups and downs, but I think the general trend is toward a more partisan and more contentious political situation, and I think it reflects the country. The country’s been pretty well evenly-divided over the past few decades, and political views are held very strongly, obviously, by large numbers of people in the electorate and that reflects itself in the Congress. The position of Senate Majority Leader, which I held, is not mentioned in the Constitution or in laws. It was a product of the process by which the Senate developed custom, tradition, practice, and as a result, the Majority Leader doesn’t really have much in the way of institutional power. So, you’ve basically got to persuade people to do things. Harry Truman was once asked what he does as President, and he said, “Well, I go around trying to get people to do what they ought to be doing without being asked.” And that’s a pretty good description of the Senate Majority Leader’s position. But one of the difficult aspects of the 

+Senate Majority Leader’s position is that you are doing two principal jobs at the same time: one, you’re managing the entire institution, which includes the members of your party and the opposing party. Secondly, you’re the leader of your party. So you have both a partisan and a non-partisan role, and obviously, the two collide very frequently and it takes a fair amount of integrity and trying to be fair to deal with these conflicts, and we’re all human and so people make a lot of mistakes and I certainly have made- I made plenty of mistakes when I was Majority Leader, and I’ve made more than my share in my lifetime. But in that job, it’s particularly difficult, because every day, the two roles that you have are in conflict and you’ve got to try to resolve them on an ongoing basis. 

 

 

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