George J. Mitchell Oral History Project
 

Interviewer

Andrea L’Hommedieu

Date

11-20-2008

ID Number

GMOH 051

Document Type

Interview

Subject Headings

Administrative staff, Driving, Maine politics, Muskie, Edmund S., U.S. Senate campaign (1982)

Abstract

Biographical Note
Charles “Charlie” Jacobs was born on May 10, 1948, in St. Stephen, New Brunswick. His parents, Isabelle and Stephen Jacobs, were both teachers. He lived mainly in Buxton, Maine, until the age of ten, when his family moved to Bethel. He attended Gould Academy and the University of Maine, Orono, graduating in 1971. At Orono, Jacobs became politically active, joining the student government and supporting Eugene McCarthy’s presidential bid in 1968. After graduation, he worked for Governor Ken Curtis, serving on the Governor’s Council until it was abolished in 1976. He then worked on Senator Muskie’s 1976 Senate campaign, joining the Muskie’s Senate staff shortly thereafter. He stayed in Washington until 1979, when he moved to the Lewiston, Maine, Senate office. When George Mitchell was appointed to Muskie’s seat, Jacobs returned to Washington to serve as Mitchell’s executive assistant, where he remained until late 1983 when he transitioned back to Maine, leaving Mitchell’s employment in the spring of 1984. He later worked for the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for eleven years and for Maine Governor Angus King.

Summary
Interview includes discussions of: Mitchell’s transition to the Senate; the role of a senator’s executive assistant; Mitchell’s U.S. Senate campaign in 1982; comparing Mitchell with Muskie in terms of personality, office structure, and political talent; the disadvantages of being a junior senator; the Senate office’s organization and small dimension; how Mitchell worked to gain support within the Maine Democratic Party; getting Mitchell back to Maine on the weekends; developments of the 1982 Senate campaign; Mitchell’s jokes; the Elizabeth Taylor joke; Mitchell’s ad campaign beginning in 1981; the likability factor for politicians; Jacobs’s personal relationship with Mitchell; driving for Ed Muskie; Mitchell’s abilities in terms of patience, discipline, and teaching himself about politics; and the honorable tradition of Maine politics.

Restrictions

This recording and transcription are © 2011 Bowdoin College and are presented for private study, scholarship, or research only. For all other uses, including publication, reproduction, and quotation beyond “fair use” (Title 17, United States Code) permission must be obtained in writing from the George J. Mitchell Dept. of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College Library, 3000 College Station, Brunswick, Maine 04011-8421, USA.

TEXT

Andrea L’Hommedieu: This is an interview for the George J. Mitchell Oral History Project. The date is November 20, 2008. We are at Bowdoin College with Charlie Jacobs, and this is Andrea L’Hommedieu. Charlie, could you just start by stating your name?

Charlie Jacobs: Charlie Jacobs.

AL: And where and when were you born?

CJ: I was born in 1948 in St. Stephens, New Brunswick.

AL: And we won’t go into all your background, because that was recorded for the Muskie Project that’s located at Bates College, but I’d like you to talk about, a little bit about what year you went up until with Senator Muskie, and when you started working with Senator George Mitchell.

CJ: I was working for Senator Muskie when he was appointed to the, as secretary of state, so that would have been May of 1980, I believe. I was working in Muskie’s Lewiston office, and I stayed on with Senator Mitchell and at some point, I can’t remember exactly when this was, it must have been in the fall of 1980; Senator Mitchell asked me to come down to Washington to work down there as his executive assistant.

AL: And what exactly is an executive assistant?

CJ: Well, in most Senate offices, it’s the second ranking staff member. David Johnson was the administrative assistant, and was a Washington hand, so to speak, and the executive assistant is often a, someone from the state who is familiar with all the political folks in the state and is responsible for state related activities, like the -, running the state offices, scheduling and things of that kind.

AL: So you went to Washington.

CJ: I did.

AL: And what was that atmosphere like? Was it new to you or had you been in Washington at all with Senator Muskie?

CJ: I had worked in Washington for two years, or two-and-a-half years, for Senator Muskie, so I was, it wasn’t a surprise, you know, I was familiar with the city and Capitol Hill.

AL: And had you known Senator Mitchell before that? I mean you must have known him in some context, but had you worked closely with him ever?

CJ: I had never worked closely with him. I had worked previously for Governor Curtis, before working, and I was on the executive council working before I went to work for Muskie, so I knew him but not well.

AL: So what were your first impressions of him?

CJ: Well, it was, the transition was, it was awkward for Senator Mitchell because he came in with a staff, instead of building his own staff he came in obviously on, without any warning, so to speak, any preparation, and had a staff that had been, many of whom had been working for Senator Muskie for many years. I thought of it as sort of a difficult transition for him, and it took some time to get that, I think for him to get the staff in the, you know, that he was comfortable with in the right places. So my view of it I think when I went down there was, ‘This is something in transition,’ which is just inevitable, I mean that’s the way it works. He didn’t have a campaign and have people come in with him to the office, which is obviously normally what happens. So I think it took him a while to get in a position that he was comfortable with.

AL: And that was a matter of moving people around, like bringing you down and moving people to different positions?

CJ: Yeah, I think that was part of it, and there were some people who just sort of naturally went on to other things, and he moved some people around so, you know, I think that happened over, I don’t know, a few months or a year, and sort of settled down in, probably in ‘81 sometime.

AL: And he was in the middle of a campaign at that point, too.

CJ: Well yeah, I mean he was sort of campaigning from the day he took office, and he was very aggressive in wanting to win the election in ‘82 so he was back in Maine all the time.

AL: Would that bring you back to Maine as well, or would you stay in Washington?

CJ: I usually stayed in Washington, until the end of the campaign when we got close, and then I went on the campaign payroll. But most of the time I stayed in Washington and worked from there.

AL: And did you do campaign things from Washington, or really it was, you were handling the Senate?

CJ: I was doing, you know, the state offices and, you know, who handled, as you know, projects, cases and that kind of thing, and scheduling and - I mean there’s always a fine line between substance and politics, I mean everything you do in a sense is, obviously has political implications, but basically what we did in Washington was Senate business, you know, dealing with the everyday scheduling, which in his case was very aggressive, scheduling in Maine I mean.

AL: Hmm-hmm.

CJ: And dealing with the staff in Maine and the cases that came through.

AL: Now how long did you stay in that position?

CJ: I was there until after the election – let me just think. In ‘83, I think it was in the fall of ’83, I came back to Maine and was transitioning out. I decided I wanted to get out of politics and get back to Maine, and so I moved back to Maine and continued to do my job for Senator Mitchell out of the Maine offices for a few months, and then actually left his employment in I think it was April or May of ‘84.

AL: And there was somebody that took your place in Washington, was that Mary?

CJ: Mary McAleney, right.

AL: And you’d known her for a lot of years.

CJ: Yeah, she and I worked on the Muskie campaign in ‘76, so I’ve known Mary for a long time.

AL: And was she somebody you suggested to the Senator, or did he already know of her?

CJ: Well he certainly knew of Mary. I can’t remember how that happened, but he was certainly aware of her, so. But I don’t remember the details.

AL: Do you have a sense of how the offices of Muskie and Mitchell ran differently, or what was -?

CJ: Well it was, I mean yeah, in a way. I mean Muskie had been there of course since ‘59, and he was chairman of the Budget Committee and a senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, so he, in addition to his personal staff, he had committee staff that did all the work relating to his committee. So his total, Muskie’s total staff numbers were, I don’t know, sixty or seventy people.

Mitchell, being the most junior possible senator, who hadn’t even been elected, had only his personal staff, which was, Maine and Washington was, I don’t, twenty-some, twenty to thirty or something. So his resources were very different, and for a staff member, if you said on Capitol Hill, “I work for Senator Muskie,” obviously everybody knew who you were. If you said, in June of 1980, “I work for Senator Mitchell,” they would say, “Who?” You know, I mean obviously they had, he was, you know, totally junior in terms of seniority, so it was a very different kind of atmosphere, you know, you’re working for the most junior senator in the Senate, so it was different in that respect.

AL: Who are some of the others you worked with? Anita Jensen, was she there? She was there at that time, right?

CJ: Anita Jensen was, had worked for Muskie and she continued with Mitchell. Gayle Cory continued with Senator Mitchell.

AL: Oh, tell me about Gayle.

CJ: Gayle was, she was born in either St. John or St. Francis, Maine, the most, one of the most northern towns in the state of Maine, if not the most, and her brother Buzzy, who was a highly respected lawyer in Maine. She came – I don’t know just how it happened – but she went to work for Muskie, and I think shortly after he was elected to the Senate, so she was one of the oldest, or most senior I should say, staffers on Capitol Hill, and she was one of these people who just knew everything. If you wanted to know what was going on in Washington on Capitol Hill, you called Gayle.

And I remember when I worked for Governor Curtis and we were going through the Watergate hearings, and we’d call up Gayle and get the latest rumors about what was going to happen with Nixon, and she of course knew everything that was going on, so.

So she was just incredibly invaluable both to Senator Muskie and to Senator Mitchell, she had a vast array of information, and was just a great person to work with.

AL: And who else did you work with closely in the Senate office?

CJ: Regina Sullivan was my assistant in the office; David Johnson was the administrative assistant. In those days we were all sort of crammed into one little office, so there was me and Regina and David – I can’t remember who else, there was someone else in that office – all crammed into an office that was only marginally bigger than this space. And it was right next to the Senator’s office, so -

AL: So you got to know each other.

CJ: It was very intimate. I mean it was similar when I worked for Muskie, we had, in this kind of space there was Madeleine Albright, you know, about two feet from me, and Anita Jensen on the other side, and one other person, there were four of us in about this space, so those, the offices, they’re probably better now, but the offices in those days were very tight, crammed, you know, crammed full of stuff and people.

AL: I know from talking to people about Senator Muskie’s style and the different styles of the AA’s, the administrative assistants, could change the feeling in the office. What was David Johnson’s style?

CJ: David was, is, he is an incredibly able, bright guy. He is soft spoken and very pleasant to deal with, you know, he didn’t, he wasn’t loud or, he was a – mirrored, not surprisingly, in many ways he mirrored Mitchell in that respect. You know, Mitchell is a soft spoken person who doesn’t lose his temper or visibly get angry, and David was a similar kind of AA, very pleasant to deal with.

Leon Billings, who was the AA I worked mostly with for Muskie was a, similar to Muskie in some ways, you know, not a, you know, he would occasionally lose his temper and was more, what’s the word? Louder.

AL: Yes.

CJ: Also a great guy, but a different style.

AL: Different style.

CJ: Leon used to run through the office cracking a whip that he kept over his desk. More a flamboyant style.

AL: Do you have anecdotes or recollections of things that happened, or things you observed with Senator Mitchell, or on the staff, that are either funny or poignant or, you know, just things that happen in life?

CJ: I mean, let me just think a minute. I mean I remember Mitchell, it was a different, a very different atmosphere. I mean, Mitchell had come off – politically it was a different atmosphere – Mitchell had run for governor in ‘74 and lost, and was perceived in the party to be not a good politician. So when people, when he was appointed by Governor Brennan to the Senate, there was a widespread view within the Democratic Party in Maine that he would have a tough time winning reelection.

So it was not like, it’s really not what you’d expect now, seeing what happened in the interim. There was not a, people were not optimistic about his ability to beat David Emery, who everybody knew was going to run in ‘82. So it was an uphill battle just to convince the party that he was a credible candidate.

And I remember going to, or hearing a comment from Joe Sewall, who was Republican former president of the state Senate, he had heard Mitchell speak at some event at the Civic Center in Augusta, and he told someone that the Republicans better not underestimate George Mitchell, after hearing him speak. And so Mitchell – I’m just going to go on, and tell me if -

AL: No, please do.

CJ: So when Mitchell was appointed in ‘80 and began immediately to be very active in Maine, doing everything, going to, speaking at every opportunity he could, and you could feel the change in the Democratic Party in August of 1981. I can’t explain it, but there was a definite change.

In August of 1981, the Democratic Party concluded that Mitchell had a great chance of winning, and got behind him enthusiastically. And I can’t explain why that happened, except, other than George’s hard work and the fact that he impressed people, not only Joe Sewall, but a lot of Democrats, that he would have a great chance of winning.

And I remember thinking after August of ‘81 that we had a good chance in ‘82, and it was purely, it was really Mitchell’s hard work and his ability to, once he could stand up in front of an audience, his ability to impress them with his intelligence and ability. I mean, he’s just an incredibly able, verbal, disciplined kind of guy, and, but that took time and hard work.

AL: And he came to Maine almost every weekend?

CJ: I think, as I remember it, it was almost every weekend. I remember we, in those days the Senate would actually work on Fridays and we’d schedule him on several flights back to Maine on Friday afternoon. In those, they used to, in those days senators had some influence with Delta Airlines, so we could, with their approval we could book him on three or four different flights, then cancel the ones we didn’t need.

And I remember the last flight on one day, I mean it was so close, there was a vote in the Senate that he had to do, and to make the flight back to Maine, I mean I went out to the airport, stood next to the woman at the gate and pleaded with her to hold the plane until Mitchell arrived. And just as she was about to close the door, Mitchell came around the corner and made the flight. Every Friday was like a launching, I mean it was -

AL: Yeah.

CJ: - giving him briefing books, and the most difficult thing was just physically, getting him on the plane back to Maine. So it was something of an event every Friday, getting him on the flight.

AL: Did you do any driving for Senator Mitchell?

CJ: I did at the beginning, before I went down to Washington I would drive him to events around Maine.

AL: What was, I mean there’s always so many, people who drive senators have really interesting stories.

CJ: Well, I mean Mitchell is a much – Muskie was very different, like I drove Muskie around Maine a lot, and Muskie would often sit in the car and just say nothing, and I used to, I’d usually just float out some comment and sometimes he would be talkative and engaged with conversation. Other times he obviously just didn’t want to talk. So his moods were different, you know, and Mitchell was much more sort of normal in that regard. I mean he would just normally talk and it wasn’t anything very, it was a - They were different personalities.

AL: Right.

CJ: But there were, you know, when you drive around with someone, you know, and do all these things, I mean you do see them up close.

AL: Hmm-hmm.

CJ: And I can’t think of anything terribly funny except that, I mean I remember one time he was explaining to me that we had to schedule enough time in the afternoon so he could shave, because his beard grew so fast that he had to shave before the evening event. I mean, you get involved in all those little details of someone’s life that normally no one would know about or care.

AL: Yep.

CJ: But when you’re in a political situation, even in Maine which is less intense than a lot of places, you still have to deal with all of those small things to make things work.

AL: Did he ever talk sports? I know he enjoyed baseball especially.

CJ: I don’t remember him as the type who would, in the car would talk sports particularly. I mean in speeches he would always joke about his brothers, who were better athletes than he was and his brother Swisher is, was, he was always, grew up in his shadow, Swisher being one of the best basketball players in Maine in those days.

But I, and I mean he, we certainly knew he was interested in sports. I mean I remember once calling up Red Auerbach and getting tickets for the Senator to go to a basketball game, a Celtics basketball game.

AL: And he was friends with Red Auerbach, right?

CJ: Yeah. And I don’t know exactly, it probably happened through Swisher, I have no idea, but anyway, but yes, he knew Auerbach. So I can say at least that I talked to the great one for two-and-a-half minutes.

AL: Did staff ever get tickets to things, did it ever trickle down that much? Not, that was really hard.

CJ: Yeah, I don’t remember that we got, you know, any particular things. There were events in Washington that, you know, of no particular consequence but interesting that we’d go to on occasion. I remember going to a, when I was with Muskie, going to some events. There was an event for, it was one, actually it was the last time Hubert Humphrey ever spoke in public, it was an event honoring him. And for some reason there was an extra ticket or something and I got to go, which was just fascinating. But of course that, I mean that happened a little less with Mitchell being a junior senator, there weren’t as many of those things floating around, you know.

AL: Right. And you left pretty early and came back to Maine.

CJ: Right, right, I left when he was still pretty junior.

AL: Right. So the ‘82 campaign, you felt that it was really turning around? You could feel that -

CJ: I thought in August of ’81 there was a major shift. And I was sort of cautiously optimistic after that, I mean there was certainly no guarantees or anything but I sort of felt that things were headed in our direction.

AL: Now tell me if I have this right, was that the election where Tony Buxton and, oh, who was it, they went around the state to update the voter registrations? A couple people did, and Tony was sort of the lawyer in the background, and if the town office would give them a hard time in giving them the voter list, they’d call Tony? Does that ring any bell to you?

CJ: No that doesn’t – it could have been, but I don’t remember that.

AL: Yeah, I’ll have to look that up, because I think that might have been part of that campaign.

CJ: It might have been. Larry Benoit was the -

AL: Well, Larry was part of it, yeah.

CJ: - was in Maine, and I forget when, but at some point he went on the campaign payroll and essentially ran the campaign. I remember, it must have been fairly early on, certainly it was in ‘81, at some point in ‘81 we did a baseline poll, and I remember going to, we had a meeting in New York with the pollster to go over the results of, you know, the poll and met with consultants who were going to do the TV and so on.

AL: Hmm-hmm.

CJ: And – boy, it’s been a long time – I had a thought there but I don’t, it’ll come back to me.

AL: Yeah.

CJ: Oh, I know what I was going to say. I mean consistent with Mitchell’s attitude from the beginning, which was to be very aggressive and work very hard, he started running TV ads in September of ‘81, which was just unheard of.

AL: Right, a whole year.

CJ: I mean a whole year in advance, people, a lot of people thought he was crazy. But in my view, particularly looking back on it, it was one of the smartest things he did. Because his, I mean he was basically unknown to Maine people, and I think Mitchell understood that he had to get out there first and paint his own picture of himself, and not let Emery paint the picture. So that, I think, was a critical point in the campaign, it got him on TV a year in advance and put him, you know, there was all positive stuff, it wasn’t, it was nothing to do with Emery, it was all ads saying who Muskie was – I mean who Mitchell was – and I think one had something to do with Social Security, I can’t remember just what that ad was but I think it was, one part of it was dealing with the issue of Social Security.

AL: Did you observe David Emery during that campaign, and how, did he falter in places that left openings, do you remember, in that -?

CJ: There was a critical point that, I mean I think Mitchell would have won the election almost no matter what. I mean, I think the difference in their abilities, I think people think of senators different than they do congressmen. I think they’ll, they might vote for somebody for Congress, it doesn’t mean that they’ll vote for them for the Senate. I think they view the Senate in a different way. And I don’t think Emery ever really passed that test, you know, I don’t think people could ever really picture him in the Senate.

I mean, there was an unflattering comment in the Bangor Daily, I think it was John Day who wrote it, that said Emery looked like he slept under the truck the night before. He just wasn’t a, he didn’t have a presence. A very bright guy, but he just didn’t have that sort of presence that most senators have in one form or another.

But he made a critical mistake, that turns out to have been critical, though it looked, it appeared minor at first. But Emery had an ad against Mitchell on TV that in some way, I think it was an ad, it may have been just a speech, but anyway, he mischaracterized Mitchell’s record on some veterans’ affairs.

AL: Oh, on the voting, yes.

CJ: And Mitchell just pounced on that mistake, and I think that was a significant event in the campaign, because it put Emery on the defensive.

AL: Right.

CJ: And I don’t remember the details around that issue, but I remember clearly that, the impression that Mitchell saw an opening and went for it, and so that I think helped.

But I think primarily what happened in that election is, when people saw Mitchell, they liked him. And, I mean that’s sort of the threshold thing in politics, when you go out and campaign, if you don’t get votes, you don’t get very far. And when Mitchell went out to campaign he got votes.

And there was one thing I was going to mention that I didn’t before is: you mentioned humor. I remember at one point Mitchell was saying that, “I’ve got to have some jokes,” you know. “When I give speeches, I need to have jokes.” This was early on. So all of us went around trying to find some jokes somewhere that he could use, and I mean the thing about Mitchell is that he is the most, in some ways he’s not a natural politician. Muskie was a natural politician; somehow he was born with those genes that made him sort of have a natural feel for politics. I don’t think Mitchell was, I think Mitchell learned it all. But he is so disciplined and so smart and verbal that he could do it. I mean he learned how to be funny. He’s not a naturally funny person, unlike his brother Swisher.

But he learned it all, and he learned how to give speeches and tell jokes and be funny. And I remember, he had some joke that was so, I heard it so many times I just about died every time it came up, but he had this repertoire of three or four different jokes, and he’d start off every speech for a while with those, one or more of those jokes. And we sort of all joked about it amongst ourselves, how sick we were of hearing those jokes.

AL: Did the jokes have like names, nicknames? I won’t make you tell a joke, but.

CJ: Well I’m not even sure I can remember, one was about Elizabeth Taylor and, because she had, John Warner had married Elizabeth Taylor -

AL: I heard that one in Rockland last summer.

CJ: Oh, did you?

AL: Yes, at the State Treasurer’s Association meeting.

CJ: Yeah, I mean, we all, we thought it was sort of passé, because I mean we just didn’t think of Elizabeth Taylor as being much of anything, you know, I mean she wasn’t, that was a different generation.

AL: Right.

CJ: But it was, it got laughs, you know, it worked, so -

AL: And I’ve heard there’s one called the ‘cow joke.’

CJ: Oh, I don’t remember that one. I have to think about that. I’d love to –

AL: I’ll have to query people about these jokes, because the cow joke is supposed to be infamous.

CJ: Do you remember any details?

AL: I don’t, no.

CJ: Oh.

AL: It hasn’t been told to me yet, I’m trying to find somebody who’ll tell me it.

CJ: I’ll think about that one.

AL: Okay.

CJ: That one I’m sure, I’m sure there was one, but it doesn’t come to mind right off. But the Elizabeth Taylor one was, you know, about sleeping in the cots, when the Senate had an overnight session, sleeping next to John Warner on the, one of the cots and making some comment about, “He was giving up a lot more by being there than George was.”

AL: So I guess for that generation it was really funny.

CJ: Yeah, I mean like I say, it worked, so.

AL: Are there other times later on in Senator – in your career or Senator Mitchell’s where you’ve made connections, or have you pretty much gone in different directions in later years?

CJ: I didn’t, when he was, later on particularly when he was majority leader, I didn’t have a lot of contact with him. You know, I’ve talked with, Mary’s been a good friend so I’d talk with her on occasion, but for a long time I didn’t have, except to, whatever, you know, I might see him at some event or something.

Interestingly, I mean just recently, my family and I and the Maine Women’s Lobby have been doing a fund raiser for the Linda Smith Dyer Fellowship – Linda Smith Dyer was my former, late-wife, and they have a fellowship named after her and we have been raising money to endow it, and the Senator agreed to co-chair the committee to raise the money, which was extraordinarily nice of him to do that -

AL: Oh. That’s wonderful.

CJ: - and made a substantial contribution also. So he’s been, you know, I’ve had those kinds of contacts on occasion most recently. And he came to my wedding in 1984, after I left his office, which was also very nice of him. My wedding dinner, I should say.

AL: Yes.

CJ: We had a family wedding but, so you know, he’s been on occasion very pleasant and supportive of me personally, so -

AL: In terms of interacting with him, and interacting with Senator Muskie, I think you talked about it a little bit in terms of your experiences driving them – more personable?

CJ: Well, I would s-, yeah, I mean we used to call Muskie “Grumpy” you know, among the staff, you know, in an affectionate way I mean.

AL: Yeah.

CJ: Because, I mean he could be pretty grumpy on occasion, you know. And when you’re driving him around I might float out some comment just to see if he was in a talkative mood or not, and sometimes I’d just get sort of a grunt back, in which case I just stopped saying anything because clearly his mind was somewhere else.

AL: Right.

CJ: I remember with Muskie, making some comment, we were driving by the Androscoggin River and I made some comment about, “You must feel good to have been part of cleaning that up.” And he just didn’t respond to that, and it was years later before I figured out why he didn’t – because he was doing an interview, towards the end of his life he was doing an interview with somebody on TV, and they asked him what he was most proud of. And you know, I would have thought cleaning up the rivers, I mean something like that, something tangible you could – but he didn’t say that. He said he was most, what meant the most to him was that when he said something, people listened to him. And he thought that was the most, the thing that he would, you know, that meant the most to him. And I thought that was very interesting, and I related it back to that comment I made in the car and then I understood why he didn’t respond to it.

But they were, but he would be, at times Muskie could be very talkative, mostly about minor things. I mean, I was a junior staff member, he didn’t discuss heavyweight policy issues with me, but I remember flying with him on a speech, to go to a speech in Chicago or something, and he was in a talkative mood and we were sort of huddled together talking almost all the way over and I could, people were looking, because Muskie was well known, I mean I’m sure they thought we were discussing some heavyweight policy thing. And all the way over, Muskie was telling me about how he planted these flowers out at his house, and the next day the kid mowing the lawn had come along and mowed them all down. So he went on and on about that. So I mean he was in one of those talkative moods. And there were other times in the car where he would be very talkative and other times not at all.

And so Mitchell was more sort of constant, I mean he was always sort of pleasant and easy going. I mean even when he got mad, I remember in his office in Washington once, something had gone wrong and it was, he had every right to be angry about it, and the worst thing he ever said was, “This really distresses me.” You know, whereas a lot of people would have been hollering and vocalizing their anger, he just said, “This really distresses me.” You know, he was just very even-keeled. And I don’t think I ever heard him utter a swear word. I’m sure he does, but I never heard it.

So it was very different personalities. And I mean it’s interesting because Mitchell was a protégé of Muskie’s, I mean a lot of what Muskie – Mitchell – learned was from Muskie, like a lot of other people obviously.

AL: Is there anything that I haven’t asked you that you think is important to add in terms of Senator Mitchell, his personality, his career, your observations?

CJ: I just, I mean this is sort of obvious I suppose, but I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone who has all of the things that he does in quite the same combination. I mean Muskie was obviously a great senator in a different way, there was a lot of things different about Muskie. But for Mitchell to, I mean he is the most disciplined person, he could make himself do things, and had an infinite patience.

I mean I’ve heard stories when he was a judge that he, in the most boring case in front of his court, he would listen to every word and just pay incredible attention to what was going on. And I mean he had the discipline to make himself do that. And he had the discipline to learn how to be a successful politician. And he obviously had the tools, he could talk, and I remember Louis Jalbert saying once that, “That smile is worth a million votes.” Louis Jalbert was an old pol from Lewiston, and he thought in very practical terms like, “Does he, when he smiles, does he, does he have a nice smile?” which he does.

But I just, it’s just amaz-, never ceased to amaze me, how disciplined and how he, he never made the same mistake twice, and he was very – I wasn’t there when he ran for majority leader, but he obviously set himself up by supporting Robert Byrd. He, instead of challenging Byrd, he was smart enough to perceive how to do that. And so it seems to me his career has been one of sort of constant growth.

And his work in [Northern] Ireland is an example of just incredible discipline, and the ability to listen and relate to both sides of that. I just think he’s just an extraordinary person. Like most of Maine’s delegation. Maine has a tradition of honorable people in its major elective offices, and we haven’t had a scandal in Maine that would even register on a, in anybody’s scandal meter since the 1950s, when there was some scandal involving the State Liquor Commission.

AL: Yes.

CJ: And that, I mean that wouldn’t even get on, make the newspaper in New Jersey. And we had Owen Brewster who got into a scandal, you know, with Pan Am or one of the airlines, I forget which one.

But other than that, I mean Maine has a long tradition of very honorable people of integrity in high office, and Senator Mitchell was, along with Muskie and Cohen and Olympia Snowe and a lot of others, and Margaret Chase Smith, you know, exemplify that Maine tradition. I mean, and that’s also something that I think stands out, not just about him but about Maine.

AL: Great, thank you so much.

CJ: Unlike a lot of other states.

End of Interview

 
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Interview with Charlie Jacobs by Andrea L’Hommedieu

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