Transcript: Senator George Mitchell



The transcript from this week’s MIB: Senator George Mitchell is below.

You can stream/download the full conversation, including the podcast extras on iTunesBloombergOvercast, and Stitcher. Our earlier podcasts can all be found on iTunesStitcherOvercast, and Bloomberg.


ANNOUNCER: This is Masters in Business with Barry Ritholtz on Bloomberg Radio.

RITHOLTZ: This week on the podcast, I have an extra special guest, an extra, extra special guest. He is Senator George Mitchell, he was the Majority Leader of the Senate for quite a while, his curriculum vitae is just immense.

Rather than go over that, I’m just going to say if you’re at all interested in the state of politics today and how we got here, what we should be focusing on, what policymaking is really about, then sit down strap yourself in for a master class in American politics and policy. With no further ado, my conversation Senator George Mitchell.

I’m Barry Ritholtz, you’re listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio. I have an extra special guest this week, his name is Senator George Mitchell, he was the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate from 1989 to 1995, has a rich and full career in politics and I can’t even begin to review his curriculum vitae, in the Army for two years, goes to Georgetown law school, graduates in 1961, he is the assistant to Senator Edmund Muskie before he is appointed US Attorney for the district in Maine by President Carter.

He served as a federal judge, principal architect of a number of peace treaties in Northern Ireland, in the Middle East, in baseball, he was also chairman of the Walt Disney Company, Senator George Mitchell, welcome to Bloomberg.

MITCHELL: Thanks for having me.

RITHOLTZ: So you have a storied background but I have to go back at least to the beginning of your legal career, you graduate Georgetown Law in 1961, you practiced law for about a dozen years, what sort of legal practice did you have?

MITCHELL: I began with the Department of Justice, served there for a couple of years, then I was hired by Senator Muskie to be on his staff here in the U.S. Senate in Washington.

From there I left to join a law firm in Maine in 1965 and I practiced there for about a dozen years. Like everything else in life, the practice of law was much different than it is now, far less specialization, so I did a wide range of things including I began increasingly to become involved as a trial lawyer and I participated also as an assistant local, what we called county attorney, so I tried dozens and dozens of cases.

RITHOLTZ: Criminal, civil, everything —

MITCHELL: Mostly criminal.


MITCHELL: I did do some civil work and then I became the US Attorney and there I tried a very large number of criminal cases as well.

RITHOLTZ: You’re appointed by Jimmy Carter, you serve as US attorney for a couple of years. Somewhere in there, I recall reading a brief stint as a federal judge, is that right?

MITCHELL: That’s right, I was appointed a federal judge when the Congress enacted legislation to increase the number of federal judges in Maine, we had had since the state’s creation in 1820, only one federal judge and that was doubled to two and I became the second federal judge, only the 12th in the whole history of the state.

RITHOLTZ: And then there is a midterm opening in the Senate and you are appointed to the U.S. Senate by Governor Joseph Redden in 1980 and you run for election in 1982, and won by a pretty substantial margin.

MITCHELL: I did win by a substantial margin, but for most of the race I was behind by a substantial margin.


MITCHELL: Very deeply etched in my memory is May 1981, well over a year before the election when the headline news in a large daily newspaper was that I was trailing my opponent by 36 percentage points in the general election and at that time I was threatened with a primary election and I was behind in that race by 25 percentage points.

RITHOLTZ: Okay, so the come from behind kid. How did you end up closing that giant gap? What was — were you just less known to the voters or what was the big disparity?

MITCHELL: It was a combination of factors, first the primary challenge never materialized, so I ended up getting the nomination without a contest and then it was a head-to-head race for over a year, we had a lot of the public appearances together, we had six televised debates —

RITHOLTZ: Six debates, that is amazing, we barely do that anymore..

MITCHELL: No, that is right. Well it was my opponent who challenged me to the debates and as the incumbent, I accepted it and gradually over time, I think I became better known and the tide slowly changed in my favor and ended up winning by a comfortable margin with 61 percent of the votes.

RITHOLTZ: So you get elected and fairly quickly, you rise to the role of Senate Majority Leader, how did that happen?

MITCHELL: I was very fortunate to I was named the chairman of the Democratic Senate campaign committee for the 1986 elections, that’s a position that each party has, you help candidates running for office —

RITHOLTZ: So there is some influence and some power that go with that role?

MITCHELL: Well there is the if you do well and we were very fortunate in that year although President Reagan was then in his second term and really at the peak of his popularity, in the election of 1986, we gained 11 seats and went from being a minority party to the majority party.

RITHOLTZ: Midterm elections often helps the party out of power, we will come back to that in a bit. So we were talking about elections, we’re talking about how things have changed, the modern era of social media and little bubbles that people are in. How does that affect politics today?

MITCHELL: It’s had a dramatic effect, really like the rest of life in general, you can’t think of politics as something separate from the rest of our lives because it’s affected by the same influences, our work, our family, all of our lives are and as we’ve seen the dramatic changes in human life brought about through the technological advances of recent years, the creation of social media, the beginning of the cable news services, increasing polarization of the media itself which both influences and is influenced by those attitudes in public.

So serving in public office now was much different than it was when I was there, running for public office is even more different.

RITHOLTZ: Let’s talk a little bit about your background in international diplomacies and we should begin with Northern Ireland. You were a special envoy there for six years, you help negotiate a number of resolutions to the conflict there, how did you get the parties to the table?

MITCHELL: Over a five-year span, I chaired three separate sets of discussions, the main negotiation lasted about two years. Interestingly, there were 10 political parties in Northern Ireland and the two governments, so there were 12 parties in all to the negotiation. not once ever was I able to get all 12 into the same room at the same time, somebody had walked out, somebody had been evicted, somebody didn’t like something that day, so we never get everybody together, as a result of which, I did a lot of what I would call moving negotiation, I would go to their offices individually and see them one group at a time. I would have meetings with two of them or six of them.

Once in a while, we had most of them there but it was very difficult because of the long-standing hostility and mistrust. In the end, to their great credit the political ease of Northern Ireland who had spent their lives in conflict, took a great risk, personal, physical risk, political risk, by entering into an agreement which I am pleased to say, today this year, marks the 20th anniversary of it and the peace is held, they remain divided, there are great differences of opinion, the government is not malfunctioning because of internal disagreement, but the violence has largely ended, and to me, that’s a significant accomplishment.

RITHOLTZ: I’ll say, so the issue of the separate northern island politics sort of reared its head again with the Brexit vote, you know, it was a vote previous, Scotland and Ireland vote to stay in the United Kingdom, and then they’re both very much in favor of the EU and then suddenly, there’s this Brexit vote and everybody seems to be surprised by it, how do you look at the political situation in the UK and how significant is the Russian interference there? We keep reading about that.

MITCHELL: The Brexit vote taken by the people of the United Kingdom was democratically taken and therefore must be respected, but I believe personally that will prove to be a historic mistake for the people of the United Kingdom themselves and also and in particular, the people of Ireland, not just Northern Ireland which is a part of the United Kingdom along with England, Scotland, and Wales, but the Republic of Ireland which the economy of which is deeply integrated into that of the United Kingdom.

Keep in mind Ireland has 5 million people, the United Kingdom has 65 million people. The United Kingdom is a large powerful nation, Ireland is heavily dependent on the economic integration with the UK and so the people of Ireland risk being those most hurt by the UK decision to leave the European Union.

Now how much that how much Brexit will be hard or soft, will they remain in a customs union, will it be a complete break? All those are now being decided literally as we speak in the British Parliament and elsewhere but I think it is an important matter for all the people of Ireland, North and South, and all of the UK as well, I hope very much that the Prime Minister of the UK takes the position that they will accept what people refer to as a soft Brexit, not completely sever their relations with the European Union and that’s very much in the United States’ interest as well.

RITHOLTZ: Is there any chance that cooler heads prevail and everybody wakes up one day and says this is a terrible idea, let’s not do this?

MITCHELL: I think that’s not likely at the time, it appears that the UK is going to move toward some form of change in its status within European Union. I hope that both the leaders of the UK and the leaders of the European Union will negotiate in good faith to minimize the adverse impact both economically and politically, a strong European Union, in my judgment, has been a major contributor to peace, stability, and prosperity, not just in Europe but around the world.

RITHOLTZ: So let’s talk a little bit of peace around the world. The Summit on the Korean peninsula that took place in Singapore, what are your thoughts about it?

MITCHELL: We must all hope and pray that it succeeds because that is one of the most dangerous flashpoints in the world, but let’s keep in mind that the United States’ position as enunciated repeatedly by secretary of state Pompeo, including as recently as a day ago, is that there must be complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization, the statement issued today by the president and Kim Jong Un omitted the words verifiable and irreversible.

Indeed it was not a new statement, it referred simply to the statement made months ago in April by Kim Jong Un that they would agree to denuclearization.

So as of now, the two parties have different interpretations of what does denuclearization mean, that must be negotiated out and hopefully the administration will insist on the American definition being accepted. The second major point to be negotiated is the pace of change, the president has said it’s going to happen, very easily he has used the words immediately, right away, fast, quickly, Kim Jong-Un has said it is a process that will take a long time and that it should be phased out over a long period of time.

I think that the president’s words in this respect are somewhat overoptimistic, I think it is going to take time but the question is how much time and how will it be verified, how can we know for certain they’re doing what they say they’re doing? Keep in mind that no North Korea, not Kim Jong Un or any other has ever used the words verifiable and irreversible.

RITHOLTZ: So we heard on the US has given up war exercises in the South China Sea, there are talks about relieving some of the embargoes that are on Korea, we’ve given them a lot of prestige just by having their president sit down with our president, doesn’t seem like we’ve gotten a whole lot back so far, what’s the take away from this initial summit?

MITCHELL: Well, we’ve made three significant concessions already to the North Koreans, the first is the meeting itself, every North Korean leader wanted a meeting with the American president because that of course places them at the center of the international stage, the second is that we have changed our policy dramatically until just recently, the American policy under President Trump and his predecessors was that North Korea had to commit to do to denuclearization as a condition to getting into a meeting, now that is shifted from a condition of getting into the meeting to a goal of the meeting, that’s a significant concession.

And the third is of course an end to the joint US-South Korean military exercises which is has been a long-standing objective of North Korea. Now if it turns out that we do get full and verifiable and irreversible denuclearization, it will have been worth the price, but we don’t know that yet and so until now, the concessions have gone one way and we will have to see what the negotiations produce.

All of us must hope and pray that it will succeed and the policy as we expect it will take place, but that remains to be seen and it’s going to be a long difficult road.

RITHOLTZ: Let’s talk a little bit about life after the Senate. You become chairman of the Disney Corporation and you were there for four years, how did that position come about?

MITCHELL: Just before I left the Senate, I was contacted by Michael Eisner who was then the CEO and Chairman of the Walt Disney Company, asked to meet with him and members of the board and they offered me the position of president of the company that is second in line to Mr. Eisner, after CEO. A great man named Frank Wells had held the position, he had died tragically in a helicopter crash —

RITHOLTZ: I recall that.

MITCHELL: And they were looking for someone to succeed him.

After giving a careful consideration with my wife, I was of course flattered and honored by the offer, I decided not to accept it because my goal was to get back into the practice of law with which I was more familiar and I wanted to continue living in the East. I told Michael and about a month later he called me and said we know you turned us down on the other position but we have a vacancy on the board of directors, would you be interested in joining the board and I was very much interested. I like Michael, I like the company, it was interesting and exciting for me, and so I served on that board for about 12 years, the last four of which I was the chairman of the board.

RITHOLTZ: So you’re chairman at the same time that Disney ends up buying Pixar, the tremendous acquisition that so far has worked out really well, what was the decision-making process like? Was that motivated by Eisner, by Steve Jobs, who moved that forward and how did the board respond to a lot of people were a little skeptical given what looked like a high price, it has since paid off in spades but back then, people were concerned about it.

MITCHELL: The decision was made by Bob Iger shortly after he took office in the discussions with Steve Jobs, and Steve then joined our board and so we overlapped on the board for a relatively short time and then I retired. It was a good acquisition. Interestingly that occurred right at the end of my tenure, right at the very beginning of my tenure we had made a large acquisition of ABC which included ESPN, that also was criticized for overpaying but it turned out very well, so we had at the beginning and at the end acquisitions that paid off very well. In between, we had a third one which wasn’t so good, that was purchasing what was then the Power Rangers then became ABC family.

So overall, the record was good but it wasn’t perfect.

RITHOLTZ: So after the Pixar purchase Steve Jobs I believe becomes the biggest share — outside shareholder of Disney, you’re on the board with him, what was that like? He is a famously mercurial CEO, what was he like as a Board of Directors member?

MITCHELL: He was a valuable and contributing member of the board, very outspoken, very direct in his comments, I found him to be helpful to the board’s the deliberations and proceedings although as I said, we overlapped for a relatively short period of time.

RITHOLTZ: So you also served as director for Federal Express, for Xerox, for Staples, for Unilever, how did the background in the Senate and I guess especially Majority Leader, how did that help you prepare for those sort of private sector roles?

MITCHELL: Well serving as Senate Majority Leader is a very tough job, you don’t have any real specific power, only the opportunity to try to persuade people to do things that they should be doing without being asked. But you do require some degree of patience, some degree of insight into how to bring people together, and so it was very helpful to me not only in my role as a corporate director, as chairman of the board, but also in my work in Northern Ireland, the Middle East and elsewhere.

I want to say that for me, service on the boards that you describe was really an enjoyable, educational experience, I met and worked with some really great leaders, I’d mention Michael Eisner who did a great job for 20 years with Disney, Bob Iger who succeeded him has done a great job during his tenure, one of the great persons I’ve ever met in any capacity political or business was Fred Smith —

RITHOLTZ: I knew you were going to go there.

MITCHELL: Who was the founder and long-term CEO of Federal Express, Fred is a terrific guy would’ve succeeded in any walk of life that he chose, there were great leaders in other companies as well that I served on from whom I learned a lot.

RITHOLTZ: So during the steroid scandal of baseball, the performance-enhancing drugs scandal, major league baseball was flailing about looking for a way to help resolve it, you got involved, tell us how you helped them move beyond that era in sports?

MITCHELL: That was a very difficult undertaking because I had no power to compel anyone to talk with me or to produce documents, everything is voluntary, and the Major League Baseball Players Association made the decision to oppose the investigation and to refuse to cooperate in any way, of the 1,200 major league players only one voluntarily agreed to talk to me in response to my request, I sent a letter to every single one of the 1,200 players and only one responded.

RITHOLTZ: And who was that?

MITCHELL: That was Frank Thomas who was then with the White Sox, a great player who made the Hall of Fame and I met with him it was on the condition that he wasn’t going to disclose any names and he didn’t but he confirmed the fact that there was widespread use of steroids, he resented the fact that he had achieved historic successes putting him in the Hall of Fame in a clean way, but have to compete with players who cheated by using drugs.

And I made the argument of the players which they rejected at the time but later accepted that the principal victims of what was going on were the majority of players who didn’t cheat, they had to compete with players who were cheating and the livelihood were in danger, they rejected at the time but I’m very pleased to tell you that after I issued my report, there began to be a change in attitude and right now to their great credit, the players strongly support vigorous enforcement, a comprehensive program in major league baseball, to the eternal credit of the then Commissioner Selig who started this process and to the players who have now come around to this view, Major League Baseball has the toughest most effective drug testing, drug prevention program in professional sports in the United States.

RITHOLTZ: Fascinating stuff.

I have to just ask you the straight up question, what do you think of the state of politics in America today?

MITCHELL: It’s unfortunate, the word dysfunctional is widely used and I think that it does not reflect well on our country or on our democracy or on our political process.

RITHOLTZ: But let’s point some fingers because no one person no one party gets all of the blame, but how would — who would you point fingers at historically that led us to where we are today?

MITCHELL: Well, there are many factors, I’m not a historian or a sociologist, I’m an ex-politician, I’ll make two comments, two suggestions that I think if adopted would help improve the situation we’re in.

The first is to the gerrymandering, the manipulation of congressional district lines each 10 years after the census it’s been going on since the country was founded but technology has advanced so rapidly and as you know technology is neutral, it can be used for good purposes that can be used for bad purposes. In the case of gerrymandering it’s been used to an extreme way that has resulted in what you might call minority representation in state after state, big states Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, Republican candidates of the House of Representatives in the most recent years after the last redistricting received a minority of the vote and got huge majority of the seats.

Underway now is an effort in 16 states led by California and Iowa depoliticize, to reduce the politicization of the process of rewriting, revising, congressional district to make them more compact, more logical, more competitive, I think that’s a huge factor and that will go a long way toward reducing the dysfunction.

RITHOLTZ: That very pro-democracy and that’s less about grabbing power and more about respecting the underlying philosophy.

MITCHELL: That is exactly right.

RITHOLTZ: There are some Supreme Court cases pending on this also.

MITCHELL: There are, it’s a big issue now for (inaudible). The second is money, we are drowning in money, I travel all over this country for 10 years I have asked every audience, do you believe that our members of Congress are more responsive to their constituents than they are to the donors? In 10 years before tens of thousands of people only two or three people have raised their hands, that’s the corruption of American politics, the trust of the public in their elected officials has been severed and you cannot have an effectively functioning democracy if the people do not trust those who they have elected and a big reason for that is money.

The Supreme Court in a series of decisions the best-known one being Citizens United has opened the floodgates to money pouring into our system at precisely the time that in a series of unrelated actions, transparency has decreased almost to the point of vanishing, so you have this double whammy, billions and billions of dollars being poured into the political process, less and less openness for the people to know who’s giving what to whom.

RITHOLTZ: So you’re not a big believer as some Supreme Court justices seem to be that money is the same as speech so they say.

MITCHELL: Money is money and speech is speech and every sixth-grade student in America knows they’re not identical.

And the second point is that we ought to have the right in our country, the people through their elected representatives to impose reasonable restraints on contributions to political campaigns and expenditures by political campaigns.

This Supreme Court has effectively prohibited that and that’s what we need is a change that says yes, the American people, can they do have the right to control the amounts of money going into campaigns and to control the manner in which that money is spent in political campaigns. Until that happens I don’t think we’re going to see any change in the dysfunction, I think, in fact, it will get worse.

RITHOLTZ: What about public financing of candidates in elections instead of private donations?

MITCHELL: I believe in it but it doesn’t have political support in our country, when I was Senate Majority Leader, we passed in the Congress for the last time, a major comprehensive campaign finance law, we couldn’t get the votes to include public financing, it did a lot of other good things but unfortunately President Bush vetoed the bill and we couldn’t override the veto.

So let’s talk about the 2016 presidential election, a number of people were surprised by the outcome I recall sitting and my wife was a big Hillary supporter, she’s a public school teacher and I remember very early watching the returns come in, we saw North Carolina was a little late and some of the other normally democratically leaning states like Virginia, and I recall saying to her, Honey this doesn’t look like it’s going your way. How surprised you by the outcome of that election?

MITCHELL: I had a feeling it was coming and in fact I appeared on Bloomberg television that evening, just before I went on, the young man who worked for Bloomberg doing the tabulating and the interpreting of the votes come up to me and said Trump is going to win.


MITCHELL: And he did yes, this young man just in the same building, a different floor, so at that point I realized that it was over, of course as we all know, Trump lost the popular vote profitable by about 3 million, but under our system he won fairly and in a democratic way.

My disagreements with the president focused on policy, and there has been a lot of talk about his personal characteristics and everybody — every citizen is able to make up his or her own mind in that respect. I think the public debate ought to focus on policy and my disagreements with him are in the area of policy, most recently in the so-called tariff wars —

RITHOLTZ: The trade war, yes.

MITCHELL: Trade wars and tariffs being imposed on our allies like Canada and the European Union and so we get this usually ironic situation where the president is praising Putin and Kim Jong Un and blasting Canada’s Prime Minister and the Europeans who are our historic allies.

RITHOLTZ: Well, the Canadians are a very vicious warlike people on the northern border, you have to be prepared for a — yeah, I’m every bit as surprised as you. It’s China Russian North Korea are now our friends, and Canada, the UK, and Europe seems to somehow be our adversaries.

MITCHELL: I have to say that’s a complete misreading of history also, in the after — let me go back, in the 75 years before 1945 Europe was devastated by three major land wars, in the last two the United States intervened decisively, in the aftermath of that terrible conflict in which 63 million people died in a world in which the population was less than half of what it is now, we, the United States led the creation of a world order to promote trade, stability, peace, and prosperity, and it included the European Union, NATO, institutions to help people all of them achieve democracy and freedom and prosperity, and largely it has worked, it’s imperfect as are all human beings and all institutions, what the president is doing is in effect tearing down that system and trying to replace it with a series of ad hoc alliances with Russia, with China, and with North Korea.

There’s no reason why the two have to be mutually exclusive, we don’t have to attack Canada in order to do a deal with North Korea, we don’t have to seek the dissolution of the European Union in order to deal with China or Russia more effectively, in fact the opposite is true we should be strengthening our alliance with our friends to help us in dealing with our historic adversaries.

And as I put it, we should be combining with Europe to deal with the real abuses by China in the system of world trade. Instead it is we who are isolated and China and others who are allied against us, it’s an ironic turn in the wheel of history that I think will ultimately redound not well for the United States.

RITHOLTZ: Let’s talk about China, it seems that the United States is ceding leadership on a number of areas to China, technology, helping the Third World rollout of their economic disadvantage, trade, immigration, China seems to really have stepped into the void that the US, since 2016 has created.

MITCHELL: Well the greatest gift that the Chinese government could receive was given by President Trump when he took office and withdrew from the transpacific trade partnership, these were 10 Pacific facing nations who wanted to establish their primary economic relationship with the United States, they did not want China to be dominating them in economic or other affairs and we spurned that effort, we in effect, withdrew, so what did they do? Well they are now turning to an agreement that will include China.

We effectively walked out the door and left it open to the Chinese to dominate and that was a profound error. Now the fact is the Chinese have abused and misused international trade mechanism, they don’t enforce intellectual property rights, they impose restrictions on foreign investment, there is a great deal of theft of international property rights, we should be addressing those directly with the support of our allies in a way that deals with the problem, if you got an intellectual property rights problem, you address that directly.

A broadly tariff based — tariff increased based approach is exactly the wrong approach so we are using the wrong weapon to fight the Chinese in their — in the way they’re abusing the system and we are at the same time severing our ties with our allies who should be supporting us in the effort.

The Europeans cannot understand what it is that we’re doing because it is ultimately so contrary to our own interests.

RITHOLTZ: Astonishing stuff, we have been speaking with Senate Majority Leader and peace negotiator Senator George Mitchell, if you enjoyed this conversation, be sure and come back to check out the podcast extras, you can find that on iTunes, Overcast, Stitcher,, where ever finer podcasts are sold.

We love your comments, feedback and suggestions, write to us at, check out my daily column on, follow me on Twitter @ritholtz, I’m Barry Ritholtz, you’re listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio.

Welcome to the podcast, Senator Mitchell, thank you so much for doing this, I’m a fan of yours for a while and I really enjoy the masters level education in policy and in politics.

MITCHELL: Well, thanks, I am glad to be here, it’s been a pleasure to talk with you.

RITHOLTZ: So let’s go over some of the questions we didn’t get to during the broadcast portion, you had said something that I took a note on being Senate Majority Leader is very challenging and you don’t have a lot of explicit authority, but you do have the ability to appoint chair people of different committees and standing appointments as well as you get to control what comes to the floor, I would think that’s a fairly big amount of fairly substantial amount of power in one person that the 50 plus senators that answer to the majority leader are not going to want to make you upset with them.

MITCHELL: The Majority Leader no longer has the direct power to appoint chairman and individual committee members, it’s done in both sides generally by a committee of Senators, he does appoint the — what we call the steering committee.

He does have an indirect authority but also their been customs built up the including seniority which is an absolute but is a huge factor, so you’re right, he is I would — I would describe it as first among equals does have some degree but it is nowhere near the power say the Speaker of the House.


MITCHELL: The Speaker of the House is mentioned in the Constitution, it’s a constitutional office, in fact the speaker of the house is third in line to the presidency in the event of something happening, the Senate Majority Leader is not mentioned anywhere, it’s a custom that arose when the Senate became dysfunctional long after the Senate itself began its existence.

So you have the power of persuasion, you have to gain the trust and confidence of your colleagues.

RITHOLTZ: So Senator Mitch McConnell has been Majority Leader for the Republicans for quite some time now, what do you think of the job he has done both as a former Senate majority leader and as a Democrat looking at the control the opposing party has.

MITCHELL: I regard Mitch as a friend, I was flattered when he was elected Majority Leader, he described me as the role model he tended to emulate, I think he’s been very effective in behalf of his party and the principles of his party, I disagree with some of the things he’s done, I strongly disagreed with his decision which has proven to be effective from their standpoint to not permit even a hearing or a vote on Pres. Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court one year before Obama left office, that’s going to come back someday and haunts them every weapon used in politics or war is rapidly disseminated to the other side.

So it’s just a matter of time until right after the midterm elections, a party says well when not going to consider any more presidential nominees if it can be one year, why can’t it be two years, I think that’s very destructive of the process, harmful for the country but I think it sure did advance the interest of the Republican Party —

RITHOLTZ: Do you think they stole a seat, is that a fair way to say —

MITCHELL: Well, I don’t use those words, he pursued a policy, he was firm on and he executed it implemented on his plan and it succeeded from that perspective. I think 20 years down the road when that is applied in the other direction, there may be a balancing of that view, but I think he’s effective, he’s intelligent, he clearly has the trust and support of the vast majority of his colleagues practically those– his party, his caucus, the Republicans in the Senate.

RITHOLTZ: So we mentioned a little low social bubbles that have come up in terms of consumption of news courtesy of social media, what do you think the impact of a cable channel like Fox News has been on the population and the politics in the United States?

MITCHELL: Well, it has had a profound effect and the principal effect has been to benefit those whose views are espoused on Fox News. The reality is of course that there have been partisan news outlets throughout our nation’s history, one of the roughest elections in American history was in 1800 when the two candidates were men who become icons in American history, John Adams was the incumbent, Thomas Jefferson was the challenger, and there were what we would think of as newspapers that were very partisan, said awful things about each candidate.

But then of course, the news were — they were rarely read by few people it was distant in time and place, it did not have anywhere near the scope and power of electronic media communication, the radio that we’re now speaking over, the power of the television camera, which reaches literally everybody in this country and as we discussed, earlier, particularly in cable news, has the enormous effect of repetition that drives home the point that if a politician makes a mistake.

Now it isn’t just reported and forgotten, it’s repeated thousands of times so it’s deeply embedded in the minds and attitudes of the American people. And let me just make one other point.

As humans, we have two capacities that are very, very important in this discussion, the first is there is almost no limit to the human capacity to rationalize, to excuse behavior by those who with whom I’m associated that we would never tolerate in those on the other side.

And then secondly, our minds are wired in a way that we receive well, retain and use information that is consistent with our own previous views, but we have a hard wall that keeps out information that is inconsistent with our prior believes and so we tend to receive information, seek out and receive information that confirms our views, and to repel and reject information to the contrary and you combine that with the immense power of rationalization and you have people in this country today who not only support, not only is silent about, but affirmatively speak out in behalf of actions that they would never tolerate when performed by the other side. That goes both ways of course.

RITHOLTZ: So one pundit has gone so far as to say if there was a Fox News type of an organization when Nixon was president, he never would’ve had to step down after Watergate, is that overstating it or how influential is an entity like Fox News or maybe something like Sinclair Broadcasting to the either local or national politics?

MITCHELL: It’s impossible to course for either categorically accept or reject a description like that but it is indisputable that Fox has enormous power and that it is it has become a part of the Republican Party, and a spokesman for the party, not just announcing the views but actually shaping the views and changing the views. Just look at the policies of the Republican Party on the issue of trade for nearly a century, Republicans have strongly advocated trade policies.

RITHOLTZ: Very pro-open trade —

MITCHELL: If you go back and look at the votes in the House of Representatives by Mike Pence when he was in the house and by most of the Republicans, literally on a dime, the policy has been completely reversed and now you have the most anti-free trade president in modern era strongly supported by Fox and by others in the Republican establishment whether within the party itself or those who support it.

Now, that happens on all sides in politics. I’m a Democrat but the fact is that a long time ago Democrats were the party of slavery and the Civil War divided Democrats on the subject while Republicans were cratered on the abolition side, the two parties have completely shifted roles on dramatic and powerful issue of race over the past 150 years, shifted roles somewhat on trade and so people change individuals and political institutions, but the power of electronic media has created a situation our politics that enables people to more fully exercise the natural rationalization that we all have and to justify policies, as I said, I’m repeating myself now, that they would not otherwise tolerate.

Let me give one example of that right now, when President Obama said that he would be willing to talk to other foreign leaders, there was an avalanche of criticism.

RITHOLTZ: Cuba, I remember people went crazy over Cuba.

MITCHELL: And they specifically mentioned North Korea, if you go back and look at the old Fox News reports and Republican political leaders, there was an avalanche of criticism that he would think of talking to these terrible people, well now that Trump has done it, it’s well supported.

RITHOLTZ: Nobel Prize.

MITCHELL: And of course it’s true that the Democrats go through role reversals as well, I don’t mean to suggest that this is a one-way street in American politics, but the combination of the power of electronic media, the human capacity for rationalization, our closing our minds to different points of view, personally I think is unhealthy.

One the greatest things that happened to me as Senate Majority Leader was I had to listen, I had to listen to points of view many of which I disagree with, because I had to respect each senator as an individual who had his or her own views, his or her own constituency, and I I’ve said many times that the most effective way of leading is by listening, you get to know what people want and then you can act on that basis rather than acting on the basis of what you think they might want.

RITHOLTZ: Quite fascinating. So there’s two subjects I have to get to before we get to our standard questions, one is immigration but the other is much bigger, let’s talk a little bit or maybe it’s not bigger, but let’s discuss what’s going on with the Mueller investigation.

You are on Majority Leader during certain special counsel appointees, what you think about what’s taking place with the issue of Russian interference with the election, the whole Mueller investigation, the witch hunt, the president saying he can pardon himself, this has to strike you as somewhat bizarre compared to what you lived through when you were Senate Majority Leader or am I overstating it? Is this just par for the course.

MITCHELL: While it has been historically the case that the presidents who been subject to independent investigations have opposed those investigations, have sought to undermine them, have sought to discredit them, and so that’s what President Trump is doing, that’s what President Clinton tried to do, the fact is that the Robert Mueller is a Republican, he was appointed by Rod Rosenstein who is a Republican and who was appointed to his position by President Trump, so it’s a far stretch to suggest that it’s a partisan witch hunt when the two principal leaders those conducting and those supervising investigation are themselves lifelong Republicans.

I don’t think they will succeed I think it would be a catastrophic error for the president to fire Mueller, although that appears to be at least from time to time under consideration, I also think it will be a catastrophic error for the president to refuse to honor a subpoena issued by the Mueller investigation if in fact he does not agree to testify. So I think he’s got a tough decision to make sometime in the next few months. In the meantime I think Bob Mueller has demonstrated a degree of restraint, there are no leaks from his investigation.

RITHOLTZ: None whatsoever, talk about discipline.

MITCHELL: He has played it straight, he has talented able people the working for him, we don’t know what the facts are because he has not disclosed them and so it’s premature for anyone to say well this hasn’t been proved or that hasn’t been proved because we don’t know, it is in the middle of an investigation. When he completes his investigation and makes his views known, then we’ll be able to make a judgment.

I do want to say that I believe that both President Obama and President Trump have not responded with sufficient vigor to the efforts by the Russian government to interfere in our democratic process and to destabilize democracies not just here but in Europe and other places as well.

RITHOLTZ: UK, there was just a big report out this week that Russian intelligence officers and others seemly interfered with the Brexit vote as well.

MITCHELL: Yes, despite its possession of nuclear weapons and its having been a world superpower just a few decades ago, the Russian economy is actually quite small, it’s less than half the size of California’s economy, it doesn’t even begin to approach ours, we should respect them, we should understand that they’ve been through a very difficult period of what many of them regard as national humiliation by the loss of superpower status, but at the same time, it is very clear that technology again has enabled them to conduct what is essentially cyber warfare on the United States, on democracy, on the Western European democracies in a way that requires a vigorous response.

And I don’t think our government has made a response with sufficient vigor and force that we need. I think that was true of Obama, and I think that is obviously true of Trump who makes excuses for Putin almost every day, he repeats his admiration for him, now he wants to meet with him, wants to talk with them in the light of the overwhelming information that has been publicly disclosed about how Russia sought to interfere in our elections.

RITHOLTZ: So that that’s a fascinating way to describe it, the pushback from the Obama supporters would be something like, well, we were in the middle of a presidential campaign and they didn’t want to be accused of trying to interfere, kind of a wimpy response if you ask me or at the very least not robust enough to say, hey regardless of the outcome of the election we need to make sure that our process is safe and secure and has the confidence of the American people.

What should Obama have done the first time the national security apparatus says hey we see the Russians to cause ruckus here, either hacking actual voting equipment or their interference via social media, what should the Obama administration have done?

MITCHELL: Well he did go to Putin and say personally and directly to him, cut it out, but in my judgment, while that was appropriate, by itself it was inadequate, and I believe that we should have responded in kind to the Russians. We certainly have the capacity to conduct such operations ourselves and I think that you can’t simply turn the other cheek and simply issue warnings that you have to take action.

Now the president did say we will take action, this is President Obama, some of it will be public, some private, the problem is nothing appeared publicly and we don’t know what happened privately and if you don’t do something publicly, then there is no way the American people have to know that something is occurring.

President Trump by contrast has simply denied Russian activity said he accepted Putin’s words on this and continues to praise President Putin now in his latest proposal to bring Russia back in to the G7 and make it the G8 again.

RITHOLTZ: Which by the way the rest of the other G6 all seem to be aghast at the suggestion.

MITCHELL: Well, with the exception of the new government in Italy. But even he walked that back.

RITHOLTZ: Yes, because they’re trying to undermine those democracies as well, in fact that the Russians are more concerned with the European democracies than they are with ours because we’re distant from them. They have always wanted a buffer state on the western border and they have memories of Napoleon’s invasion, they have memories of Hitler’s invasion, it’s not a figment of their imagination, it’s a reality. And so they want those buffer zone even though the wars of 21st-century would be very different from those 20th century, nonetheless it’s a human reaction and so I think what we needed to do is respond in kind.

This goes back to my argument about China and trade. President Trump is correct when he says China is abusing the world trading system of which they are now a party, the problem is the answer that he has chosen, tariffs, which are hitting our allies, is the wrong response, it’s as though after Pearl Harbor that we invaded Brazil. It is it’s a misdirected response.

The way to deal with intellectual property actions abuse in China is to affect intellectual property here and elsewhere, in other words make a response that specific to the problem, if they are imposing restraints on let’s say investments and by financial institutions, then we impose restraints on their financial institutions, as we’ve seen in the case of the company ZTE, we have the power to affect Chinese economic activity. ZTE was going into bankruptcy when we took the position that they couldn’t be involved, American producers could not be involved with them and incredibly enough, the president is now rescuing trying to rescue that company even Congressional Republicans are upset about that.

RITHOLTZ: Well he said he was to save manufacturing jobs and he did, we just and realized in China.

MITCHELL: So I don’t disagree with his premise that they’re doing things they should be doing and we should be responding to them, problem is that the response is hurting our allies more than is hurting them, and divides the West when we should be united to come up with a policy that is to targeted, selective, and confronts the Chinese, in the areas where we believe the abuses are occurring.

RITHOLTZ: It is a confounding strategy, isn’t it? We look at it, there’s never been anything like this, has that?

And it’s based on a falsehood, I mean president cites individual cases of high tariffs in Canada and Europe, but the reality is according to all that I’ve read is that the average level of tariffs in Canada and the EU are about 3%, and the United States are a little less than that. So that there are a relatively modest level of tariffs although there are individual cases on all sides where they are very high and theirs are lightly higher than ours and it would be, I think a reasonable thing to expect that we could get parity even at that low level.

But it certainly doesn’t justify the massive response that we’re making now in effect daring them to respond in kind which they have to do for their own domestic political reasons.

RITHOLTZ: Right, the flipside of that is some of our trade partners do have tariffs complain about our subsidies especially in the world of agriculture, look at sugar, look at milk, look at corn, we have massive subsidies that make it very challenging for anybody else to compete with our products overseas if we are going to have a whole conversation about tariffs and trade wars, shouldn’t all of this be on the table? Very expensive subsidies to big agricultural producers.

MITCHELL: That’s why we establish the World Trade Organization with rules, procedures, and dispute resolution mechanisms to deal with all of those issues and what the president is doing is undermining the trading system that the United States helped and led the way to create.

Let me take you back in history to the very last days of December 1942, the tide of the second war had just changed decisive Allied victories in Midway in North Africa and in Stalingrad in November of that year had marked the maximum expansion by the Axis powers. And so from then on, their powers contracted, a small group of American officials went to London to meet secretly with their British counterparts to begin to prepare for the massive reconstruction that they knew would be necessary when the war ended.

Their central goal was to establish a World Trade Organization because they believe that trade wars have led to real wars, they believe that the protectionist reaction by the United States and other countries to the deep recession of the late 1920s had pushed the world into depression and it created the conditions that led to the rise of fascism in Europe, in particular Mussolini and Hitler both of whom had made efforts to come to power, Mussolini had achieved it, Hitler had not in the very earliest years of 1920.

And so that’s what led ultimately to the World Trade Organization, the treaty was signed in 1947 by57 countries but because the Senate was controlled by Republicans and they dislike President Truman, they would ratify the treaty. 45 years later and nine presidents having participated in negotiations in the last legislative act of my tenure as Senate Majority Leader, the Senate ratified the creation of the World Trade Organization.

Now it made sense, it has helped the United States achieve political economic military increasingly cultural dominance in the world, of course it’s had some cost to it, but American alliances with our allies have not been harmful to American interest overall. On balance, they have been beneficial to us.

That’s my biggest disagreement with President Trump, he says we’re a piggy bank that everybody wronged, he said everybody takes advantage of us, but the fact is it’s been mutual, we have derived in an enormous benefit from the creation of institutions from the European Union, from NATO, from the World Bank, from the United Nations although many in our country revile all these institutions if we think the world is unsafe, how unsafe would it be if there was no European Union, if there was no NATO, if there was no United Nations, the dominant power the United States would be called upon to solve every problem alone, and it would be a massive drain on our resources, military, political, economic, and other.

And so we have to do the enlightened thing which is these are all human institutions and therefore they are imperfect they all acquired bureaucracy and bad habits, we should do all we can to streamline, improve them, to deal with the problems that they have as they come up, but not to abolish them because we and others benefit from their existence.

RITHOLTZ: Fascinating, fascinating stuff and let’s talk about another long-standing policy that seems to be up in the air and that’s the massive set of changes with US immigration. What are we doing and what’s the long-term lasting effect from these big changes that have taken place?

MITCHELL: Everybody in America came from somewhere else, human beings first appeared on earth about 300,000 years ago and they spread slowly around the globe, it was not until about 16,000 years ago that humans first entered the American continents by crossing the land bridge over what is now the Bering Strait into Alaska. Gradually over the following 16,000 years they spread slowly across North Central and Latin America and became what we know as the Native Americans.

About 500 years ago, the Europeans came across the Atlantic from Europe and for centuries, the British, the French, the Spanish, the Dutch competed for control of North America among themselves and with the Native Americans. Ultimately the British prevailed, the United States was established, later Canada was established as independent countries and the same followed over a longer period of time in Central and Latin America.

The negative attitudes of demonization of thinking of people as other was there from the beginning, the Spanish hated the French, the French hated the British, they all fought the Dutch, Wall Street, the name comes from the wall built there by the Dutch settlers who settled in New Amsterdam and they were building it to protect themselves against the British not against the Native Americans, and that persisted for a long time in our history.

Now negative attitudes about “others” are a part of human history and it’s existed in our country, somewhat offset once our country was created by the need for people to fill this vast continent, but the first negative immigration laws were not passed until America was 100 years old, the Chinese Exclusion Act passed in 1882 to keep out Chinese because a lot of them have come to help work on the transcontinental rail.

Then there were more passed in 1921 in 1924, now the truth is the reality, no reasonable American thinks that we can go back to the days of open immigration, we can’t let — come into our country anybody who wants to come, there are too many tens of millions of people around the world who want to come which is flattering to us, think about this for a fact people who says well China’s the dominant rising country, have you ever heard of anybody risking their life to break into China?

Only once. North Korean guys who escaped from the concentration camps and swam the river to China, meanwhile tens of millions want to come here. They want to come here because they see freedom and opportunity. You’ve never met or heard of an immigrant who said I came to America because you get the best cruise missiles, they come here because they think we have freedom and opportunity. So we need a balance we need a rational system for treating people fairly, living up to the ideals of the country, and to keep the benefits coming.

Think about these facts, in 2016 seven Americans received Nobel prizes six of them were immigrants think about this fact, three of the most successful companies in the world are Apple, Amazon, and Google. Apple was created by Steve Jobs whose father was born in Syria, Amazon was created by Jeff Bezos whose adoptive father was born in Cuba, and one of the cofounders of Google was Sergey Brin who himself was born in Russia.

Ask yourself would we be a better country if they had not been admitted and ask yourself also what are the chances that if he lived his life in Syria. Steve Jobs would have created Apple, or Jeff Bezos in Cuba, or Sergey Brin in Russia, genius knows no language, no religion, no race, it can be found wherever there are human beings, but it tends to flourish where there is freedom and opportunity and that’s the United States.

We can’t let everybody and so we need a rational fair system to bring people in, I don’t object to the president saying we want to try to get people with skills, of course we should, but that should not be used as an excuse to eliminate immigration altogether because you never know what’s coming in the second generation as we saw in the case of Steve Jobs and many, many others.

My mother was an immigrant, she could not read or write she spent 50 years working in textile mills on the night shift, my father was the orphan son of immigrants, he had no education, he was janitor at a local school, so I one generation removed was lucky to get an education and go on to become the Majority Leader of the United States senate, you don’t know now among these people coming in possesses a spark of genius or whose child will possess a spark of genius.

Let me tell you what a story about a guy named George Mitchell, not me, the guy I call the real George Mitchell, it began in the hills of rural Greece over 100 years ago that was a goat herder, a young guy, a young man, a goat herder named Savvas Paraskevopoulos, he wanted something better so he came to America to get a job on the railroad, he was a good worker, at the end of the first week when they paid him, the paymaster said to him, you are a good worker we want you to stay but nobody can spell or pronounce your name, you get to change your name.

So Savvas said to the paymaster, what’s your name? The paymaster was an Irish guy, said Mike Mitchell. Savvas said okay, that’s going to be my name now. So Mike Mitchell after he finished working on the railroad moved to Galveston, Texas he opened a shoe shine shop, he shined shoes for living, he had a son, he named him George Mitchell.

The son was smart, ambitious, he went to Texas A&M, he got a degree in engineering he then became an extremely wealthy person in oil and gas industry and he invented fracking, horizontal drilling, and those things that have resulted in the United States now being the largest energy producer in the world, the son of a goat herder from the hills of Greece, changed his name because nobody could pronounce or spell his name. That’s the story of America and that says one thing to you.

RITHOLTZ: That is an amazing story.

MITCHELL: Long after I have been forgotten, people will remember the man I call the real George Mitchell because he changed the course of history, you can argue about the benefits and disadvantages, there has got to be the problems that rise with that, but eight American presidents promised to make America energy independent and not one of them could do it, but the son open the literary goat herder from the hills of Greece did what they couldn’t do.

RITHOLTZ: The real George Mitchell made America energy independent, that’s an amazing story. So let’s get to our favorite questions. So tell us about some of your favorite books, what do you enjoy reading fiction and nonfiction, what are some of your favorite reading materials?

MITCHELL: One of the most influential persons in my life was my high school English teacher, I was a junior, a wonderful woman named Elvira Whitton, posture straight as an arrow diction perfect, one of the most brilliant kind of women I’ve ever met, one day she called me and after school, she said the what do you read, and I didn’t quite comprehend the question, and I said what do you mean? She said, well, books, what books do you read? And I really didn’t read anything other than what was needed for school.

So she opened her desk, pulled out a book and handed it and said I’d like you to read this and come back and told me about it. She said it won’t affect your grade one way or the other, but I think you should start reading books. The book was a small one, it’s called a novella The Moon is Down by — written by John Steinbeck a story, fictional account of the Nazi occupation in Norway during the second world war.

I read it that night, I was fascinated and took it back the next day because I loved her, I wanted to impress her and so I gave a book report, oral that is almost longer than the written report, she handed me another book, I read that, that took up my whole Junior year, and at the end of the year she said to me you’re on your own, I want you to pick out the next book you can read.

RITHOLTZ: What was the second book?

MITCHELL: The second book was called Parnassus on Wheels, it was a story about a mobile library, quite an interesting story actually and then everything, I was — I felt badly when she said I’m on my own because I enjoyed my interaction with her, but I went to the library, the school library, the public library and finally, I kept trying to think what would she think about this?

I read three books called The Bounty Trilogy.

RITHOLTZ: Sure. Mutiny on the Bounty is the first one.

MITCHELL: Right, Men Against the Sea is the second one and Pitcairn’s Island is the third one. So to me those are the most memorable books I have ever read because I love them, I couldn’t get over especially Men Against the Sea which is not widely known, it’s a tremendous dramatic story of human endurance and courage and strength and then I started reading and I’ve read mostly history since then and that’s pretty much what I read now I’ve had the good pleasure of meeting some terrific writers, I’ve had a conference that I spoke at, I met Harlan Coben who was one of the best-known crime writers in the world.

RITHOLTZ: What sort of — do you recall a title of one of Harlan Coben’s books.

MITCHELL: Gosh, he just had one, Stand Up I think is the name but I’m not sure.

But he just published one about two years ago.

RITHOLTZ: You mentioned Against the Sea —

MITCHELL: I want to mention one other guys, a guy named Chris — god I’m blanking on it now, he is a good friend, he has written several books, he wrote In the Garden of the Beast about the rise of the Nazis, Chris Larson, also I’m now reading his book about the Sinking of the Lusitania, he’s a terrific, terrific writer and has become a good friend Chris Larson.

RITHOLTZ: Erik Larson.

MITCHELL: Erik Larson, I’m sorry, yes I got the last name right.

RITHOLTZ: Not that I remember it but — he did Devil in the White City, my wife loved that book.

MITCHELL: That’s right, yes, it was terrific, both of them great. I have written five books, but I’m an amateur, I think these guys are really professionals.

Another great friend who I have read all of his books is Colum McCann, he is an Irish-American, written great books, Let the World Spin, he wrote one called Transatlantic in which he featured me, so I’m going to help (inaudible).

RITHOLTZ: He got a run of books, Let the Great World Spin, Dancer, Transatlantic, The Book of Men, you mentioned Against the Sea and Endurance, did you ever get around to reading the book Endurance about the Shackleford Journey to Antarctica?

MITCHELL: No, I haven’t read that.

RITHOLTZ: If you like those sort of into — just astonishing with these people went through and how they managed to survive.

MITCHELL: Is that by Erik Larson?

RITHOLTZ: Let me see who wrote that, there is a funny story to the book because it kind of came and went in the 50s and then it was re-issued decades later and then suddenly became a — suddenly became a bestseller like it just happen at the wrong time, Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing —

MITCHELL: Okay, I’ve also read a great many books about the origins of human beings in the history of civilization and so forth, I like reading that kind of stuff, I read a lot of that.

RITHOLTZ: Any titles you want to suggest?

MITCHELL: Well some are way out of date, as a young man, I read the entire, I think it was about nine volume History of Civilization by a man named Will Durant, and Ariel Durant —

RITHOLTZ: Sure, there is a short version —

MITCHELL: The short version is called the lessons of history.


MITCHELL: It’s only about 100 pages long, it is actually brilliant written years ago, there was a great professor first at Princeton then he was at the University of California Santa Cruz named Paige Smith. He wrote a two-volume history of John Adams then he wrote a about a — I think it is about seven volumes of it’s a social history of the United States, it is not a political history, absolutely brilliantly written, fascinating of the single most interesting book I’ve ever read is one of his volumes on the period of reconstruction in the United States following the civil war, filled with information about I think most Americans aren’t aware of, of what happened during the period of reconstruction.

RITHOLTZ: Quite fascinating, and our favorite final two questions, if a recent college grad came up to you and said I’m interested in a career in public policy or government service, what sort of advice would you give them?

MITCHELL: I would encourage them, it’s very tough but it’s by far the most rewarding thing I have ever done.

I believe that human beings are wired to seek what we define as success, wealth, the acquisition of property and other things, status, recognition, but the more those things you get, the more you realize that in reality life is a never-ending search for respect. First and most important, self-respect, hardest to get, most important, then the respect of others.

And I think the way you get them is by service to others and I tell graduates all the time, if you are lucky, if you are lucky, you will first succeed in what I would define as traditional terms and then you will figure out that that there has got to be more to life than this and you will find in your life some objective that engages all of your physical and spiritual might that is larger than your self-interest and it helps others.

RITHOLTZ: Quite fascinating. And our final question, what do you know about government and politics and public policymaking today that you wish you knew when you began 30 or 40 years ago?

MITCHELL: Every day of my life has been a learning experience, and I think the single greatest change in American attitudes that is required and that our leaders should be encouraging is to end the notion that education begins when you enter kindergarten and ends when you graduate from high school or college, the explosion of knowledge, the advances of science and technology are overwhelming and knowledge, its acquisition and use must be a lifelong experience, you can’t think that you ended your learning period when you got your degree, in fact you are just beginning, you got to keep up with it, and that I think is so necessary in the age of technological change through which we are living.

You can see it in ordinary, I would finish with this humorous story, I have a son was in college 20 years old, a daughter who is 17, I walked into the den about a year ago, my son has earplugs on, the television is on and his computer screen is on and I said what are you doing? He said I’m studying, that’s an example of listening to the air plugs, watching the work and watching television, you have to keep learning, people should think when you wake up every morning what am I going to learn today?

RITHOLTZ: Absolutely fascinating, we have been speaking with Senator George Mitchell. If you enjoyed this conversation, well then be sure and look up an inch or down an inch on Apple iTunes and you could see any of the other 200 plus conversations we’ve had. We love your comments, feedback, and suggestions, write to us at

I would be remiss if I did not thank the crack staff who helps us put together these conversations each week. Medina Parwana is our producer/audio engineer, Taylor Riggs is our booker, Michael Batnick is our research director.

I’m Barry Ritholtz, you have been listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio.



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