Since leaving the Senate in 1995, George Mitchell has been active in law, has been a senior research scholar at Columbia University, and served as a U.S. Special Envoy to Northern Ireland. Most recently, he headed an investigation into performance-enhancing drug use in Major League Baseball.
CBS News anchor Katie Couric interviewed Mitchell on Monday. What follows is a partial transcript:
Katie Couric There has been a lot of controversy about Hillary Clinton's foreign policy credentials, and some of the claims she has made. She's talked about being active in the Good Friday Agreement, the peace agreement in Northern Ireland which you of course spearheaded. Can you describe her role in that process?
George Mitchell: She was helpful and supportive, very much involved in the issues, knew all of the delegates. She accompanied President Clinton on each visit he made to Northern Ireland, made several visits of her own. Her greatest focus was on encouraging women in Northern Ireland to get in and stay in the political process, the peace process. And I have said publicly many times and wrote in my book, the role of women in the peace process in Northern Ireland was significant. It did make a difference in the process, so as I said I think it was a helpful and supportive role.
Couric: Her claims to be involved in, you believe are not exaggerated?
Mitchell: Well, I haven't seen the exact words that she has used to describe it. I have gotten a lot of calls from reporters who have told me what she said but I think her statements are generally accurate to the extent that they have been relayed to me.
Couric: The big talk is about Michigan and Florida. Should there be a re-vote in those states, and should those elected delegates count? What is your feeling about this?
Mitchell: I think it's important that the Democratic voters and others in Michigan and Florida have a sense of participation. They are crucial states. Florida, especially, of course, was decisive in recent elections and other elections in American history. It's always played an important role.
Now at the same time, there are rules, they have been challenged. You know, Katie, credentials challenges are not new in Democratic conventions. I have been to every Democratic convention for many years, and not too long ago we used to have a whole number of challenges to which delegation should or shouldn't be seated at the convention. I think we should be able to work it out so that the people of Florida and Michigan can participate because they are absolutely critical in the fall election.
Couric: Would you support the notion of a re-vote in those two states?
Mitchell: Well, that's up to the states and the Democratic National Committee to work out, along with the campaigns, of course. But I think it would be a mistake not to devise some method by which Florida and Michigan can participate in the process in a meaningful way, and I think that's possible with a different range of suggestions made about how to do it. I don't see any reason why the parties - the Democratic National Committee, the candidates and their campaigns and the states themselves - can't work it out.
Couric: There's been some talk that you might be the perfect person to broker this. Would this be something that you would be willing to do?
Mitchell: I don't think it will be necessary for me to get involved in that. They have a lot of smart people working on it. Obviously I would do anything I could to help the Democratic Party and the ultimate nominee in the election in the fall, and I'll be strongly supportive of whoever is nominated under whatever circumstances. I think this is capable of being worked out. I know Howard Dean is focused on devoting a lot of attention to it.
Couric: Would you be willing to go against a candidate who has the most elected delegates and who has won the popular vote, whoever he or she might be?
Mitchell: Well, you say won the popular vote, where? In the congressional district that I live in? In the state that I live in?
Couric: No, I mean nationally.
Mitchell: Well, that's one standard, the person who gets the most popular votes nationally. There's another standard: the person who wins the state that you are located in. In fact, most of the correspondence, the most e-mails from people urging me to vote one way or another urge me to support the candidate who got the most votes in the state that I'm in. So you can measure it any which way. In the end, you have to make your own judgment about who would be the best president and who would be the best candidate for our party.
Couric: What would be your guiding principles as a superdelegate in terms of making a decision?
Mitchell: There are several principles that are implicated and I would consider all of them: Which candidate won the state in which I live? Which candidate won the congressional district in which I live? Which candidate has the most votes nationwide? Which candidate would make the best president? Which candidate would be the best representative of our party? You have to take all of these things into account in making a judgment and it's up to each individual.
It reminds me of when I was in the Senate and the Senate has to advise and consent on presidential nominations. That's what the Constitution says, but it doesn't say what "advise and consent" means - it's up to each senator for himself or herself to calculate which factors are most important to them. I think this is similar. You have a responsibility. You have to make the best judgment you can and you take into account all of the factors. At least in my case, I will take them all into account before making a judgment.
Couric: In the meantime, they are campaigning hard for their particular candidate. Have the candidates themselves called you?
Mitchell: No, nether candidate has called me, but I have gotten calls from representatives on both sides.
Couric: Pretty enthusiastic and assertive calls?
Mitchell: No, I think they were very cordial, logical. They made persuasive cases for their candidate. They applied different standards depending upon the circumstances that they're in. Each one uses the argument best calculated to lead to support for their candidate. I've had a lot of attempts at persuasion.
I cast several thousands of votes in the Senate and on every one of them I had people saying 'Yes,' 'No,' 'Yes,' 'No.' So there's nothing new about this.
Couric: Do you consider yourself a Mainer or a New Yorker now?
Mitchell: It's an interesting question. When the superdelegate process first gained attention, Sen. Obama won the Maine caucuses. And so I got quite a number of letters saying that since he won the Maine caucuses, you are obligated to vote for him. Then the Democratic National Committee informed me that because I live in New York, I'll be a superdelegate from New York. So now I've got a bunch of letters making the opposite argument from the Obama camp and the Clinton camp, assuming the argument that Obama camp had previously made. So as I said, the argument depends on where you are and what happened in your state or congressional district.
Couric: But you are a superdelegate from New York?
Mitchell: That's what I am informed, although the director of the Maine party called me and said they want me to be a superdelegate from Maine! But I don't know if that's possible because I am a resident of New York at this time. My kids go to school here.
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