George J. Mitchell Oral History Project
 

Interviewer

Mike Hastings and Andrea L’Hommedieu

Date

9-11-2009

ID Number

GMOH 036

Document Type

Interview

Subject Headings

Childhood, Democratic National Convention (1968), Driving, Friends, Iran-Contra, Maine Democratic Party, Muskie, Edmund S., Muskie vice presidential campaign (1968), North, Oliver, Northern Ireland, Security, Tennis, Travel, U.S. Senate campaign (1982)

Abstract

Biographical Note
Shepard (Lifshitz) “Shep” Lee was born in Lewiston, Maine, on November 13, 1926, to Ethel and Joe Lifshitz. His parents were both Russian immigrants, his mother a housewife, and his father an automobile dealer. He attended Lewiston public schools, graduating in 1943. He then attended Bowdoin College, taking military leave from the college between 1945 and 1946 to enlist in the navy. He returned to Bowdoin after his service and graduated in 1947 with a degree in government and economics. At that time he and his brother changed their surname to Lee. Lee returned to Lewiston after graduation and went to work at his father’s automobile dealership. Soon after, he became active in Lewiston-Auburn Democratic politics. In 1956 he was campaign manager for Frank Coffin’s successful U.S. congressional campaign. In 1963, he bought out his father’s partner in the automobile dealership and eventually took over the entire business. Lee was an active Democrat during the political careers of Ed Muskie and George Mitchell. He was a key fund raiser for the Maine Democrats, and he lent many vehicles to campaigning candidates over the course of his career. He retired from his automobile dealership in the late 1990s.

George J. Mitchell was born on August 20, 1933, in Waterville, Maine, to Mary Saad, a factory worker, and George Mitchell, a laborer. Senator Mitchell spent his youth in Waterville. After receiving his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College in 1954, he served as an officer in the U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps until 1956. In 1960 he earned a law degree from Georgetown University. Mitchell worked for Senator Edmund S. Muskie as executive assistant and as deputy campaign manager during Muskie's 1972 presidential campaign. He later became U.S. senator (D-Maine) 1980-1995, Senate majority leader 1989-1995, and, upon his retirement from the Senate, special advisor on Northern Ireland 1995-1998. Since 1998, Senator Mitchell has served on many boards and committees and has received high profile appointments including: chairman of the Sharm el-Sheikh International Fact-Finding Committee on the crisis between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (2000); overseer of the Red Cross Liberty Fund (2001); lead investigator into the illegal use of performance enhancing substances in Major League Baseball (2006); and special envoy for Palestinian-Israeli affairs (2009-2011).

Harold “Hal” Pachios was born July 12, 1936, in New Haven, Connecticut, and grew up in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. He attended Princeton and Georgetown Law. He served for two years on a Navy transport ship, worked for the Peace Corps as a congressional liaison, then held numerous positions in politics and government including at the Democratic National Committee, VISTA, the White House (as associate White House press secretary), the Department of Transportation, and for Senator Edmund S. Muskie's vice presidential campaign. A long-time friend of Mitchell, at the time of this interview he practiced law at Preti Flaherty Beliveau & Pachios, in Portland, Maine.

Summary
Interview includes discussion of: personal recollections of Mitchell as a young man; traveling with Senator Muskie on the campaign trail; Senate election night at the Eastland Hotel in Portland Maine (1982); summaries and assessments of Mitchell’s career; interrogating Oliver North during the Iran-Contra congressional hearings; humility among politicians; paternal influence and reminiscences from Mitchell’s childhood; Mitchell’s early reading habits; anecdotes about Mitchell and his brother Robbie; street unrest at the Chicago Democratic Convention (1968) and sharing a cab with Jimmy Breslin; playing tennis and getting exercise; personal security while in the Senate, in Northern Ireland, and privately.

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 a roundtable interview with former Senator George J. Mitchell, Jr., Harold Pachios, and Shep Lee. We are at the law offices of Preti Flaherty in Portland, Maine, the date is September 11, 2008, and this is Andrea L’Hommedieu and I also have with me Michael Hastings. And so we’re going to talk about the first car that George Mitchell bought from you.

Shep Lee: Well, all I can remember, it was the lowest cost, cheapest model we had. And George says he could hardly afford that. But that was the beginning. Well, it began because Muskie was a friend of mine and I would go, would meet the people on the staff, and I met George that way.

George Mitchell: That’s right, it would have been, I joined Muskie’s staff in 1962, and Shep was a very close friend of Senator Muskie’s, and we would have met sometime shortly thereafter. I can’t remember the exact circumstances. I think it probably was when I came to Maine in 1962 there was a campaign for governor on then. Maynard Dolloff was the Democratic candidate, running against John [H.] Reed, do you remember that, Shep? And Muskie traveled in Maine during the campaign on behalf of Democratic candidates, and one of my assignments was to travel with Senator Muskie, to go around the state. And in the course of that I met many of his friends, and so my guess is it probably was then.

Harold Pachios: Well, did you travel as the driver, or as the advisor?

GM: Both. Back in those days—this is how, what a different world it was then—there wasn’t much money so Muskie and I would stay in a motel somewhere in Maine, in a single room with two twin beds. I got to know Senator Muskie very well. We often stayed at his camp at China Lake, when we were close enough to China to go and spend the night, and on some occasions we stayed at the home of people. We probably stayed at Shep’s home, and Muskie had friends situated all around the state like that. So I met, through this process, Shep and his wife, Nancy, and his family; and that’s how I ended up buying my first low cost value car.

HP: Well, Shep, was he just another nice young man that went to work for Muskie? You knew them all.

SL: No-no-no.

HP: No?

SL: I can remember somebody else, whose name I won’t mention, going to work for Muskie, and I said to Muskie, “How is so-and-so working out?” He says, “Well, okay.” He says, “He’s no George Mitchell.” He was very high on you.

GM: Yeah, we had a good relationship, it was an interesting experience. And a big part of it was meeting people like Shep, but then of course Shep and I became close friends. And I do want to say that the Valiant was just the first of many cars. I eventually upgraded, I remember he sold me an Oldsmobile once. I thought I was really in the big time then, when I had an Oldsmobile from Shep.

SL: And it had automatic shift, too.

GM: That’s right, it was an automatic. It was a big step up in life.

AL: So talk about, how did you come in and meet Shep?

HP: Well I came much later, actually. I was in Washington. I met George, I was working in the Congressional Relations department for the Peace Corps, and I was from Maine, I didn’t even know any Maine politicians but I would hang out, I had to have someplace to stand when I was up in the Hill and look like I was doing something, so I met George in Muskie’s office. And I never lived in Maine until ‘69. I mean, I’d lived here as a kid, but George was running Muskie’s campaign for vice president in ‘68 -

GM: That’s when we really got to know each other.

HP: And I was, he put me in charge of the advance operation and he said, “Look,” he said, “I’m going to, I want you to have a, we’re going to Los Angeles and I want you to send a guy out there as one of the advance men, who is a good friend of Senator Muskie’s, if you would do that please.” I said, “Yes sir.” So he said his name was Shep Lee, and so George was responsible for sending you to Los Angeles, where you did a great job.

GM: Well I have to tell the full story of how Harold got involved with the campaign. He’s glossed over the important details. When, this was in 1968, the Democratic Convention was held in Chicago—that was the very controversial convention—and I had left Senator Muskie’s staff in 1965 and began a law practice in Portland. Then I was elected chairman of the Maine Democratic Party in 1966 and served until 1968 at the convention in Chicago, and at that convention I was elected Democratic National Committeeman for Maine.

Muskie was nominated for vice president at that convention. It had been a rather stormy process here in Maine prior to that. Shep, you’ll remember the convention we had here in Maine that was controversial over whether there would be support for Hubert Humphrey or for other candidates, and we supported Humphrey because we thought that there was a chance he might choose Muskie for vice president, which he did.

So at that convention, after Muskie was nominated, he and Don Nicoll asked me if I would take a leave of absence from my law practice, go back to Washington, and my first task was to organize a staff for Senator Muskie. So that’s what I did, and that’s how I hired Bubba, Peter Kyros, Jr., Marshall Stern. I hired Marshall Stern to work on the plane with Bubba, and that’s how Harold came on the campaign.

Now what happened was, Harold was already a big shot, he had worked in the White House, and he had just gotten a big job at the Department of Transportation, and what was the title? I can’t remember the title.

HP: Attorney advisor to the secretary.

GM: Oh, he was an advisor to the secretary of transportation. So I called up Harold and I said I would like to have him come and head up the advance operation for Muskie, and he declined. He said, “Look, I’ve already done that, I’ve done all this advance work.” He had presided as an advance man for President Johnson over the largest political gathering that I’m aware of in Maine history, seventy-five thousand people in Portland turned out to see President Johnson’s visit in the fall of 1964, it would have been in September 1964, and Harold was the advance man for that visit. So there’s not much you could do in the world of advance that would top that experience. So, he declined.

So I talked to Muskie and he said, “Well try again.” So I called Harold again, and here’s the way I put it—this is my recollection, Harold may have a different recollection. I said, “Look, Harold, you got Humphrey-Muskie running for president, and Nixon is the Republican candidate.” I said, “If the Republicans win, you’re out, because you’re a Democrat who’s been appointed by President Johnson.” I said, “If you won’t help us and we win, you’re out. So,” I said, “so your best chance of continuing in this position is to come and help us.”

And Harold saw the logic of it, and he came and he headed it up and it was, I have to say it was a terrific operation. He was the best advance man, and the best person in charge of advance men. And he brought with him a bunch of guys who had, obviously he had met and helped him, so we didn’t just have Harold, we had right away an instant organization of experienced guys who were, you know, Richie Evans and Mike Casey and all your followers.

HP: And we had in the office, in the advance office, which was around the corner from where his campaign head office was, and the same floor, we had three or four women, three of them, who ran the office, handled the phones, all of whom were at Chappaquiddick with Teddy Kennedy, when he had his disaster. Every one of them was at Chappaquiddick.

GM: Another example of how Harold knew everybody who knew anything. And so that’s how we got started, and we did, we had a great time and we had a great campaign.

HP: And Shep did a hell of a job.

GM: Oh, out in California, absolutely.

AL: Now, what did you do, Shep, out in California?

SL: I can’t remember.

HP: Did you get in trouble, did you get in -

SL: I think I did, I got into trouble -

HP: Some newspaper, college newspaper.

SL: Yeah, I gave an interview to a college reporter and I said, “Can we talk off the record?” He said, “Sure.” So -

HP: And he told him that Muskie was against the Vietnam War.

SL: That was it, and then he was -

HP: Muskie appreciated your help.

SL: And he was going to contact President Johnson and tell him he thought we should stop the bombing in Cambodia. And I had the solemn promise he wouldn’t say a word. So when Muskie came in that night, oh, the reporter had already spilled the beans and they asked him, “Is it true you are opposed to the—(unintelligible)?” He said, “How the hell did he know that?” But he got out of it somehow in the end. And I maintain that it ended up helping him in California.

HP: Well it was, George probably was able to foresee that you could be of particular help in California.

SL: Right.

GM: Well, I knew Shep would get along well with people anywhere. It’s true.

SL: Thank you.

HP: So Shep, then you used to, you didn’t at that time—we’re talking about the late ‘60s, and Muskie was your great pal—you didn’t foresee George as having a political career, I assume, until he ran for governor.

SL: I’m sure I never thought in those terms.

GM: Well, he didn’t foresee me having a political career before and after I ran for governor.

HP: Well, were you, I mean you must have been a strong supporter of George’s, in ‘74?

SL: I was, yes, I was.

GM: Oh, he was, yeah, oh, Shep was, yeah, very, very helpful.

AL: In what ways were you able to help, was it in terms of providing cars?

SL: That was my number one job.

GM: Well, but no, Shep was more than that. Certainly a financial supporter, helped with the cars, a good source of advice. I think everybody, Muskie certainly relied on Shep for substantive issue advice, and I did too. And also as a friend, and a place to stay, I stayed at his house many times to save money on the campaign trail.

SL: Muskie used to stay with me a lot.

AL: And that was at your Auburn home?

SL: Yes.

AL: Off Lake Shore Drive.

SL: We would argue until one o’clock in the morning, Muskie and I. I never argued with George because he was always right.

HP: Well then you also had, you were a great fan of Bowdoin, and he was a Bowdoin man, George.

SL: That’s true.

GM: That’s true, right.

SL: But much before me, much after me. I was much before him.

GM: Yeah, let’s get that straight.

SL: I’m older.

GM: I remember the first time that I drove Muskie to Shep’s place, and Shep had a big sign that mentioned Muskie. I was really impressed with that, I’d never seen anything like that, for a commercial establishment that put up a big sign outside that, I don’t know, “Welcome Senator Muskie” or something like that. And it may have been a dedication of a building of some kind, I’m not sure. You had so many buildings and dedications.

SL: It could have been, I can’t remember. But we would welcome with our marquee prominent visitors.

GM: And one of the high points of my life was, later I got on the marquee myself, and I knew I had arrived. In two respects, I had an Oldsmobile that Shep sold me, which was a step up from any kind of car I’d ever owned, and I got on the marquee at Shep’s garage. I said now I’m, now I’ve really made it.

SL: (unintelligible) story.

GM: Now I’ve really made it. No, I have to interject a completely, a story irrelevant to this group. I spoke yesterday at the Eastland Hotel, they had a health care forum, a group I’m involved with, and there was a sizeable crowd there, and it was in the ballroom at the Eastland Hotel. And I told this story, which was the pinnacle of my career, and the reason I told the story is that it occurred in that ballroom.

I described before separately that when I grew up in Waterville I had three older brothers who were great athletes and I was not, and so I was very competitive toward my brothers. And when much later in life I ended up being appointed to the Senate and then running for reelection, after having been way behind in the polls, I came back to win, my brother Johnny, who I was especially competitive with because he was very famous. And I described how as a kid I was known around Waterville as Johnny Mitchell’s kid brother, the one who isn’t any good, which is a commentary on my lack of athletic ability.

So in the Eastland ballroom, on the night of the election in 1982, the first time I ever won an election, we had the celebration. You were there, Harold was there, and the next day in the Portland paper they had a big picture, I think it was in the Portland Evening Express, they used to have the evening paper, big picture of me with my brother Johnny draped all over me. And the caption in the paper said, ‘Senator George Mitchell celebrating his upset victory, being cheered on by an unidentified supporter’.

And I said in the Eastland, at this health conference, I said to a group of the panelists, I said, “You’re sitting right where the stage was, so you’re in the spot that represented the highest point of my life. I want you to realize that and I hope that inspires you to make some good comments.”

HP: The other thing, George, about that photograph was that he was actually in the picture, but like he was trying to get in front of your face. So his face was over like this, in front of you.

GM: Yeah, but what didn’t show in the picture is, he had pushed my wife and daughter off the stage to get in front, they were then pushed off down in the crowd and he was up there. Yeah, you’re right; he was trying to get in front. We had some good times, though. I saw Shep over many years.

I do want to tell the story that I didn’t tell at Shep’s eightieth birthday party. He had a birthday party, well, it would be a couple years ago now, a year now, his family put on. And I came and I spoke and I said all kinds of nice things about him. But I didn’t kind of tell the full story, so I want to tell the full story here to record it for posterity. He is a great guy, and everything that was said about him at the birthday, all of which was complimentary, was true. But he’s also a human being and he’s a politician and he knows how to create incentives for people to do things and so forth.

And the story is I was the Senate majority leader, and I received an invitation from the board of directors of the American Civil Liberties Union, would I come and speak at one of their dinners, and I declined because I was too busy. And Shep called me up. Now he pretends not to remember this, but I remember it very clearly. He calls me up and says, “Well look, I’m on the board,” he said, “you really ought to come, they’re a great group, you should come.” And he said, “Listen, I’ll tell you, there are going to be some other people there you might want to meet.”

There was a very famous writer, and I can’t remember who it was. It may have been E.L. Doctorow or some other very prominent writer who was going to be there. “And,” he said, “Hugh Hefner’s daughter, (Hefner of Playboy fame) she’s very attractive, she looks like she could be one of the bunnies, and she’s going to be there, and if you come we’ll seat you between E.L. Doctorow and Hugh Hefner’s daughter.” So I said, “Well okay, Shep, I’ll come because I’m a friend of yours, and I’ll look forward to meeting the writer and the, Hugh Hefner’s daughter.”

So we get to the board and I give a little talk, and I’m looking around the room and there’s nobody that looks like a Playboy bunny or anything like Hugh Hefner, and I haven’t yet met any famous writer. So then we have the dinner and I got Shep on one side of me, and Norman Dorson on the other side. Norman is a lawyer from New York, he’s a good friend of Shep’s, a good friend of mine, but he’s a pudgy, balding guy, a very, but smart guy, a good guy to meet. And so after a while I said to Shep, “What happened to the writer and the Playboy bunny?” He said, “Oh, they got tied up.”

SL: I don’t remember that at all. It was Norman Mailer who was the -

GM: Was it Norman Mailer? Oh, Norman Mailer was the writer, he’s better than, yeah, so I, “What happened to Norman Mailer and Hugh Hefner’s daughter?” And he said, “Oh, they got tied up,” just like sort of a casual thing. One of many good laughs that we had.

HP: So did you ever go over to Bowdoin with George? I mean to visit? You can’t remember that probably.

SL: I’m not sure, I’m not sure. But I was much older, so I graduated before he ever started college. But at Bowdoin they would always talk about him, they have a Mitchell room; they put me in the Mitchell room to do some work once.

GM: Oh, really?

SL: In the library, yeah.

GM: The department of special archives.

SL: Is that it?

GM: Yeah, it’s very nice. They have the papers—I told Harold this story last night—they have the public papers of four graduates: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Joshua Chamberlain, and me. And the reason they named it after me, which I said on the night that we had the ceremony a few years ago, is that I’m the only one that’s still alive and can raise money for Bowdoin. There’s no other reason. If any of the others were still around, they’d be named.

HP: So as you look back, Shep, on George’s career, both in and out of government, how would you summarize it? Would you say he did okay? Or how would, no, seriously, you see things in some historical perspective. How does he measure up?

SL: Well, up until George came along, I guess I always felt that Muskie was clearly the preeminent person in Maine. But George has clearly gotten ahead of him by being involved in so many other things than being just a politician.

HP: So multidimensional, in other words, more than just a politician.

SL: Right.

HP: So do you, in your days, who, do you think that there are others that you can remember, going way back, even before your time -

GM: Well, Frank Coffin.

SL: Yeah, a different area, but Frank was, in the legal world, the judicial world, certainly preeminent, he was recognized in that way. And I don’t know that I’m good at recalling -

HP: But if you look back prior to Muskie, Muskie was very, obviously very good but he was just political, I mean his career was a political career. There aren’t any others. I mean you have people in the Senate, I don’t know a lot about ‘Boss’ [Thomas Brackett] Reed, what he did other than be speaker of the House, or Hannibal Hamlin other than to be vice president. We had one Bowdoin guy who became president, but he didn’t distinguish himself.

SL: No, he did—in the wrong way.

GM: Franklin Pierce, yeah, he was a New Hampshire guy anyway. Isn’t he a native of New Hampshire?

HP: Yeah, native of New Hampshire but graduate of Bowdoin.

SL: But not regarded as an illustrious president.

GM: Well, nonetheless, he was president, that’s quite an accomplishment. And don’t be so fast to denigrate Hannibal Hamlin as vice president, that’s a big thing.

HP: Well if he was so good, he could have figured out how to be vice president in Lincoln’s second term, too.

GM: Well, I think in that respect, being from Maine hurt him. Lincoln wanted someone from a border state, particularly Tennessee, so geography mattered then. Still does, but probably not as much.

AL: I have a very broad question to ask. Over the years and your friendships with the three of you, and the Senator having many issues before him over the years, including Northern Ireland and other such things, have you all had conversations when you’ve had big decisions to make? Do you call and talk about things, or do you keep it pretty social?

GM: Well, it wouldn’t have been Northern Ireland, because that really is remote both in terms of geography and issues. So I probably discussed with Harold and Shep that issue, but the answer to your question is yes, and certainly in a very relevant way, I’ll tell the story about—which I did describe in my book on the Iran-Contra affair—Harold played a really instrumental role in what became for me a pivotal moment, both in the hearings and in my career.

I was appointed to the Iran-Contra Committee, along with Senator Cohen. Maine was the only state that had two senators on it, and was very much involved in the process. And not to retell the whole story, but enough to create a context, Oliver North was a prominent figure in the hearings, and in the entire Iran-Contra affair. He, the committee counsel, the lawyer that we had hired to handle the case for us, had tried to build a case against North prior to North’s visit. And so there was a lot of attention paid when North came and he made a very powerful impression, favorable to him, in the [televised] hearings when he first testified. I recall the Washington Post, in one edition, had twenty or so pictures of him in almost the entire front section of the newspaper. His lawyer had him pose for a picture with a stack of supportive telegrams that was six feet high, and there was a lot of publicity.

Under the rules of congressional hearings, typically each member of Congress has five minutes to question a witness, and it leads to a very disjointed and incomplete process of inquiry. So with this case, the Iran-Contra Committee had decided that there would be one person from each side, Democrats and Republicans, who would have one hour to question the witness, one member of Congress. The lawyers had more time, but one member of Congress on the panel. I was assigned the task of questioning Oliver North.

Because of the overwhelming publicity, I mean it’s hard to recreate the circumstances but it was, I remember it was in July, it was a very hot time of, this would have been 1987. I was trying to figure out how to, what I should do in my questioning. Most of the senators who gave me advice, and there were a lot of them, urged me to point out all of the false statements which he’d made. He’d made a number of statements—in fact, ironically, at the hearing he had boasted that he had lied but he had given justification for it, national security, saving lives and so forth and so on—and [they] urged me to try to impeach his credibility by pointing out all of the lies that had been told.

I called Harold and I went over the whole thing and we discussed it at some great length. I remember very clearly Harold saying to me over the phone, “No,” he said, “there’s no point in your saying he’s lying, a lot of people know that, but that’s not going to make the change, that’s not going to make the difference,” he said. “What you’ve got to do is point out that this business of his claiming that God’s on his side and that anybody who disagrees with him is not patriotic is just not true, that people can be patriotic and still have a different view on a policy issue.” That was, I think it was like a Saturday or a Sunday that we talked, and it just clicked with me because when he said it I knew it was the right thing [for me] to say.

So I went into my office, it was, I think I was in the office on a Sunday, and I wrote out the statement that I made, based largely upon the advice that Harold had given me about how to frame it. And of course it received a great deal of publicity after I made the statement; my office received tens of thousands of phone calls and telegrams. I don’t think we had e-mail in those days, but contact from people, letters and so forth, which were overwhelmingly favorable, although there were obviously some who supported North who were critical of it.

But it was hard for anybody to dispute the point of view that just because you disagree with someone on an issue it means that you’re against God and you’re not patriotic. It was a pretty simple proposition. So there’s one case in which I did consult with Harold, and fortunately followed the advice he gave in a very important moment.

HP: My only comment is this. I’ve been around politicians my whole adult life. I like history, I’ve studied history, I’ve read a lot of books that presidents have written and have been written about presidents, and other politicians, non-presidents, and I would ask you to ask yourselves whether you know of any examples where any politician who was praised for something gave credit to someone else. I’m serious; I’m dead serious about that. I know you don’t, I’m not, you don’t want George to comment on this. I mean I’m dead serious about it. In all my years following politics, participating in it, I have never, ever known of an elected politician who was praised for doing something and gave any credit, even one percent, to anybody else, ever. It’s unique, in my experience, which is at seventy-two years old, I’ve been around a lot. And that’s all that needs to be said about it. It never happens.

So I always say about George, I can be critical, I argue with George, too, so I don’t think he’s a saint, but I do believe he knows who he is and he has, he’s happy with himself and he is not carried away by things. And in the years that I was in Washington and since, my observation about most people who go to the United States Senate, good people and not so good people, is all of them, they’re all praised, they all say, Senator-this, let me open the door, let me drive, let me do this, whatever. I mean it’s constant, Senator-this, Senator-that, oh, over here Senator, they all get to believe it. George never believed it, and that is the other unique thing. He never did believe it. But most of them get a little imperious.

AL: How did you keep your modesty, or humble nature? Do you have a sense -

GM: Well, [Winston] Churchill disliked his big opponent, Clement Attlee, not least of which because Attlee beat him just eight days after the end of the Second World War. At one point when Churchill was criticizing Attlee one of his aides said, “Well yes, but you have to agree, he’s a humble man.” And Churchill’s response was, “He has much to be humble about.” So nobody knows me better than me, and I know that I have much to be humble about.

HP: And do you think growing up in the family that you grew up in helped you to maintain your humility?

GM: Well, as I said, I did have a very difficult childhood in that respect. For reasons of accident of birth and other things, I was very young in comparison to the other kids in my class, because my birthday’s in August, I entered school early. Then when I, I did well in school early and when I transferred from parochial school to public school, my father insisted that I skip a grade. So I was sixteen when I graduated from high school, and pretty small, and so all the boys I competed with were eighteen and somewhat bigger, which contributed to my inferiority complex both physically and intellectually. And my brothers were really quite well known; my brother Johnny was, was and is. I still run into people who ask me if I’m Johnny Mitchell’s brother, it’s just a phenomenon. I mean, he was very well known as a basketball player, and other things.

So I did have for a long time feelings of insecurity and inferiority, arising mostly out of athletics. In that respect, my father really was the perfect father for someone like me. My father didn’t have any education, he left school after the fourth grade and his principal occupation in the last fifteen years of his working life was as a janitor at Colby. But he, first off, he was completely disinterested in sports. My mother went to games, my father I think rarely ever went to a sporting event. And he kept telling me, “Don’t worry about it, it doesn’t amount to anything, you study and work hard and things will work out fine,” when I would be discouraged by my athletic failures. Many of the kids had fathers who would go to the practices and urge them on and so forth. My father kept reassuring me, “Don’t worry about it.” At the time of course I didn’t believe him, but later on I realized that of course he was right. “You concentrate on studying.” So I was kind of lucky in that respect.

AL: And I want to just ask a question about, didn’t your father have you read the Epistle?

GM: Yes, right.

AL: And I think that speaks a lot to developing your oratorical skills; do you, yourself think that that was a base?

GM: Oh yes, yes, it was instrumental. I was an altar boy in the Catholic Church, and back in those days the Epistle at the Sunday Masses were read by the altar boys, the older altar boys, and my father wanted me to read the Epistle. So we, on Saturday, we would sit, and we would—in my parents’ home, [p/o] it was a modest home but my father would sit at one end of the house, which is a far corner of the living room, and then there was in between the dining room and the kitchen and then a hallway in back of the kitchen, and I would stand in the hallway. So while the doors were open you couldn’t see me and, you know, sound would carry through the open doors. But I would have to read the Epistle so that my father understood every word, sitting at the far end of the house. So, of course it was a great thing for my ego and sense of self when I sort of became the star Epistle reader at Sunday church, because everybody in the church could hear every word I said.

HP: I trust your brothers weren’t as impressed.

GM: They were not as impressed, my brothers were -

SL: George’s first starring role.

GM: Right, right, my first starring role. And then it led me into, I remember when I went to high school, I think I was involved in a debate, I don’t know, debate team or debate process, and that provided a little bit (unintelligible).

HP: And didn’t your father teach you geography, too?

GM: My father did. And in fact I have to tell you, this is really a digression but it’s interesting how things pass along. My father never went anywhere, we didn’t have a car, and of course my parents had no money. And my father had no education. But he loved geography, and the one luxury he afforded himself was to subscribe to the National Geographic magazine, which in those days published a map with every edition. Now they publish them periodically—I still subscribe to it. And my father would put, spread the maps out on the kitchen table and he’d sit me on his lap, and we would go over, you know, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the Danube, and he would describe to me everything, and he really did know a lot about geography. Some about history, but it was really more geography.

In fact, I told a story in my book which is worth repeating. Later in life, after I had moved away from home, we started a practice where whenever I would come home I would, before coming, would go through the atlases and prepare a quiz for my father, and he really got to the point where he liked to, he liked it when I would come home with the quizzes.

And the last quiz before he died, suddenly and unexpectedly so neither of us knew it would be the last quiz, I remember it very well, it was in 1972, after Muskie’s presidential campaign, which we were all involved in, which we were talking about. You remember, he was the favorite and then he didn’t get it in the Miami Beach convention, which was in early July, and my father died that weekend, in Waterville.

Well the previous visit before that, I think it was a month or two before the convention, I went home and saw him. And this was the quiz I gave to him—three questions in increasing order of difficulty, from very simple to very difficult: which country has the most cities in the world with a population of over one million? The answer to that is really obvious, it’s China. Second question: how many such cities are there? He knew the answer right away. Third question: name them in the order of their size. And I think there were something like about fourteen cities in China that it would have been, and he ticked them off, each one, exactly right in size. And I wrote in the book, and I remember it like it was here today, I said to him, “I’m going to stump you the next time.”

SL: You’re going to what?

GM: I’m going to stump you the next time. He said, he laughed, he said, “You never have and you never will.” And that’s the last time I ever saw him, and the last quiz he ever did. But now here’s what brings the story up to date. Last night I called my wife, I’m up here in Maine and she’s at home in New York with the kids, and she said, “I’ve got a great story to tell you.”

My son Andrew is entering the fifth grade, and she said Andrew came home—well I spoke, to go back a bit, I spoke to him on the phone and he said, “Mummy wants to tell you something.” And so she put him [sic: he put her] on the phone and she said, “Well he wants me to tell you this story,” that he started school last week and his teacher called my wife today, and he said, “I want you to know that your son is going to be the first in line when we come in and out of class,” he said, “and you should be very proud of that.” And she said, “Well we are, thank you.” And he said, “Let me tell you why he’s going to be the first in line,” he said, “because I said to the class, in the opening class, I’m going to ask you a question, and the boy who gets it”—this is an all boys school—“will be the first in line.” And he said, “I didn’t think any of them would know the question. And the question was: what is the capital of the country of Burkina Faso?” And he said, “One hand shot up,” and he said, “Andrew answered it,” and then he said, “not only that, he spelled it correctly,” it was very hard to spell.

HP: Does he look at the National Geographic?

GM: He does, I give them to him, and in fact he takes them before me and we kind of, not, my son doesn’t have either the same attention span or he’s got more things to do than I did as a kid, it’s a different world, so I can’t sit him down for long periods. But he watches the science channel whenever he can watch TV, and the Discovery Channel, and the History Channel, and so he’s, he knows the capital of Burkina Faso.

AL: Let me stop and flip the tape.

End of Side One

Side Two

GM: I told the story about your eightieth birthday. To me, the story I love is your fiftieth birthday, with Louis Scolnik and Frank Coffin and I. Do you remember that story?

SL: I think so.

GM: Well, Shep had his fiftieth birthday, and his wife asked that three friends come and tell humorous stories. And Frank Coffin came, and Louis Scolnik came—Louis is a former judge, lawyer/judge, and I, and the stories were humorous but Louis Scolnik -

HP: I thought it was Frank who told the story about the Lee -

GM: It was Frank.

SL: I think it was Frank.

GM: It was Frank.

HP: Not Louis.

GM: No.

HP: You were there.

GM: I was there.

HP: Okay, I thought you told me once it was Louis who told the story.

GM: No-no-no, it was Frank Coffin. He had a book as a prop.

HP: Now, you were there.

GM: Yeah.

AL: Okay, a book about what?

GM: Well, you tell the story (unintelligible).

HP: Well, no-no-no-no, there was a, he said, you know, all of us are interested in genealogy, and I do a lot of research, I do a lot of reading. And Shep’s a close friend of mine and so I’ve looked into his background and so forth, and actually it’s quite interesting. And I only took it back as far as the Civil War, but it’s something that people don’t know about.

After Lee surrendered in Appomattox, there was a period of time when he was in a depression and very upset and couldn’t really see people, and so he actually decided to leave the country, he didn’t want to deal with it. So he went to a small town in Russia, and he changed his name to Lifshitz….

GM: Because that was a common name over there. There were no Lees over there, but there were a lot of Lifshitz.

HP: Is that the story?

GM: Yeah, yeah (unintelligible).

HP: He changed his name to Lifshitz, and he’s reading, and he says, here’s some passages, and the Lifshitz’ lived for many, many years -

GM: Until the Russian Revolution.

HP: Until the Russian Revolution, and then came back, General Lee’s descendants came back to the United States from Russia, many years had passed since the Civil War, and changed their name back to Lee.

GM: Resumed the name of the Lee, so Shep was really descended from the Virginia planter.

SL: That’s a true story.

HP: But here’s one about George and his father, and I remember, I used to go home with him once in a while and so I remember his parents, and these stories about his father training him and so forth and the National Geographic and all of that. But his brothers, you know, didn’t really have this high opinion of his intellect; they didn’t pay any attention to that. And his brother Robbie, who was, I thought the world of him, think the world of all his brothers, but Robbie was just something, he was a bit of a character. And so one time I asked Robbie about his childhood, and I said, I guess George, you know, read history, he was kind of more bookish than the rest of you and read a lot of stuff. He looked at me and he said, “Yeah, comic books.”

GM: That’s right, that’s right.

AL: Or funny books, is that what they were called?

GM: Yeah, that’s what they were called, yeah. It’s interesting, I’ve since read interviews by a couple of guys that I went through school with, and they describe me—they’re nice guys and well meaning—but they describe me in ways that aren’t real, you know, that I was reading books as a kid and so forth. I was reading funny books like the rest of them.

In fact, I have told the story about how I really did start reading books, and it’s a great story because it tells the influence that teachers have in life. I think it was my junior year in high school, it may have been my sophomore year, I don’t remember for sure, but my teacher in English was a woman named Elvira Whitten. Mrs. Whitten was quite elderly at the time, but the absolute epitome of the school teacher: upright, perfect diction, complete integrity. Really one of the most impressive persons I’ve ever met in my life.

One day she asked me to come in after class, she wanted to talk to me. Of course I was very nervous, first thing you think about is, “What did I do wrong?” It’s like whenever I say to my—I’m digressing—whenever I say to my son, I want to talk to you, he said, “Is it good or bad?” That’s the first question. So I always assumed bad.

So when I went in, Mrs. Whitten was very nice, she was seated at her desk, and she said to me, “What do you read?” And I told her, I was truthful, “Not much,” and basically what I read was whatever was assigned in classes, what I had to read I read, I didn’t do anything beyond that. She said, “I think you ought to start reading books.” And I said “Well, if you say so.” And she took off her desk and handed me a book, she said, “I think you should start with this one.”

It was a, it’s what was called at the time a novella, it was written by John Steinbeck. It was called The Moon is Down, and it was a short novel about, based on the Nazi occupation of Norway. And I remember very clearly, I went home and I stayed up real late, I read the whole book. It was very interesting. You ought to read it.

SL: I have, I have.

GM: It’s quite an interesting book, it’s very short. And of course Steinbeck is a great writer. And the next day—she had said to me, she said, “When you finish reading it come back in and tell me about it.” And so the next day I was very proud, I said, “I’ve read the book last night.” So she said, “Well you come in after class and report to me.” So she asked me about the book, to describe it, and I sort of told her the story. She said, “That’s very good.” She took it back, she handed me another book. And I remember the title of that, it was called Parnassus on Wheels [a 1917 novel written by Christopher Morley], a Parnassus is a form of library or collection of books or manuscripts, and I remember reading that book. And I came back, I reported to her. And this went on for a few months, she’d give me books to read and I would read them and I’d come back and—nothing in writing, not a part of class, it was extra.

And then toward the end of the year, probably in May, she said to me, “I think you’re now ready to choose your own books,” she said, “so now you’re on your own, you know what it’s like.” And I then started reading and I can’t tell you how many hundreds, thousands of books I then read, all because of Mrs. Whitten.

Later on when I created a scholarship fund we had a—this would have been in 1995, created the scholarship fund—and we had a dinner here in Portland. You will have forgotten this, but I wanted to thank Mrs. Whitten and so I tracked down and found her daughter, who lived in New Hampshire, and I asked her to come and speak at this scholarship fund dinner, and I told this story. I said, “I never thanked your mother, and through you I want to thank your mother.” And she gave a nice little talk. You don’t remember, but it was a really wonderful, wonderful thing, and that’s how I started. But I did start reading at that point. I had read all funny books before that, my brother Robbie was right.

Robbie was a, Harold was right, he was a character, he was a great guy; he was a fountain of great knowledge about life for me.

HP: Once in a while, while I was in Washington, Robbie would occasionally go down and we’d go to dinner. But his purpose, where George’s purpose in going to dinner was never to eat, just to be nice to his friends for the forty-seven minutes that he allocated to dinner, and Robbie’s objective was—and George was majority leader—Robbie’s sole objective was to tell George what to do, give him advice. ‘You shouldn’t do this, why do you do that,’ yeah. That’s what he wanted to do.

GM: But I remember one time, yeah, we had dinner at the Palm Restaurant, I remember that, and I was tied up and so I told them what to order and to tell me, call when the food came.

HP: This is the honest to God’s truth: we went, Robbie and I went under these instructions, and we said, what do you want, he said diet Coke and something, some, a steak or something.

GM: Swordfish.

HP: Swordfish, and to let him know, after we’d placed the order. He then, we called him, we told him we placed the order, he shows up at the Palm about twenty minutes later, the food had come maybe two or three minutes before that, he sat down, he ate, he listened to Robbie tell him what to do, and that was it, that was (unintelligible).

GM: Less than forty-seven minutes. The forty-seven minutes included travel, yeah, including travel time.

HP: That’s right. But Robbie was something, because he was the rogue, a bit of a rogue, you know, he was just a wonderful guy. Wonderful guy, and very smart. He was very smart, he was very smart.

MH: Did you give him a car once or something? It wasn’t the Valiant.

GM: Yeah, no, no, Mike, the first car I ever owned was when I returned from Germany after serving in the military, it would have been November of 1956 when I was discharged. And I can’t remember the details, but before I left Germany I bought a car, which was a brand new Ford that I picked up in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and I remember I paid $1,700 for it. It was a Ford sedan. And when I got back to Waterville, Robbie was there, he was married, had a couple of kids, and he needed a car. So I sold him my car on what were terms that not even Shep Lee could meet, the terms were nothing down and no payments.

And I then went to Washington and I had, I had been in Berlin for a couple of years and I had a couple of friends, and one of them contacted me and said to me, “I’m coming home and I can get you a Volkswagen cheap and bring it back if you’d like me to.” A guy that I’d known in the service. So I said, “Okay,” and he bought a Volkswagen in Germany—I don’t know how it worked—had it delivered, and drove it down to Washington, and so I had, my second car was a Volkswagen, which I had, that’s before I knew Shep. Then of course I got weaned off any products other than those which Shep sold.

One of the best stories that illustrates Robbie is, we all worked all kinds of jobs. I worked every conceivable part-time job possible, delivered newspapers, shoveled snow, mowed lawns, everything, and Robbie was an entrepreneur right from the beginning. When he was in high school he promoted an event bringing the famous clown Emmett Kelly [Sr.] to Waterville. Robbie was a promoter.

We used to go to the Waterville Boys’ Club every day during the winter time, play basketball and fool around with the other boys there. And one day Robbie said to me that he had gotten the concession to clean up the Boys’ Club after it closed, and what he wanted was for me to help him with it and we’d split the proceeds. So I said okay. The Boys’ Club closed at nine o’clock. At nine o’clock Robbie would go, the club would close, people would leave, and he would go into the director’s office and call his then girlfriend, Janet Fraser, who was in my class, later became his wife, and I would clean up the club. I swept all the floors, I emptied the wastebaskets, I washed the latrines, I did the whole thing. He did nothing. When I was finished, I’d knock on the door, he’d hang up from his call with Janet and we’d go home.

At the end of the first week he paid me two dollars and fifty cents, which I thought was very good. So I cleaned the Boys’ Club. A few months later he said, I’ve now gotten a concession to clean what we called the unemployment office, there was an office of the Maine Employment Commission right next door to the Boys’ Club, and it was a smaller place. And so I cleaned both. I swept the floors, I wiped off the desks, I emptied the wastebaskets, I—which I didn’t like, I learned then cleaning bathrooms is not fun—I cleaned all the bathrooms, both places. He said, “You’re doing such a good job, even though the unemployment office is smaller, two-fifty.” So I was earning five dollars a week cleaning both buildings.

Months later, inadvertently, I learn that he’s getting paid fifteen dollars a week for each facility. So he’s keeping twenty-five dollars and giving me five. And I was somewhat intimidated by him, so I raised it rather gently and he got very upset, he said, “Look,” he said, “I got the concession,” he said, “you wouldn’t have a job if it wasn’t for me.” He said, “I’m management and you’re labor.” And there I was, just a kid, but I learned I want to be part of management.

And he said to me, “I said to you we’d split the proceeds. I didn’t say fifty-fifty,” he said, “ninety-ten is a split. So,” he said, “what are you complaining about?” And I didn’t have anything to complain about.

HP: He was something.

GM: He was great.

HP: One time, he was working in Boston, and so we were going to go to the baseball game. And, because George was in the Senate, so I called George, I said, “We’re going to go to the baseball game.” So I picked up the tickets, and it was out in Fenway Park in right field, where it curves around, out pretty far. So we get the tickets, we go in and we start walking out there, found our seats, and he was furious at me. He said, “I left it to you to call George, and look where we are,” he says. I said, “Well, you think you could have done better?” “You’re absolutely right we would have done better if I’d called.”

GM: You would have done, yeah. Another thing he did in high school, he bought a cotton candy manufacturing machine. A machine which makes, it’s a big, it spins around, and he hired me and a young friend of mine, a very close friend, a kid named Ronnie Stevens. Unfortunately [he] passed away a few years ago. He would rent a truck, a pickup truck, put the cotton candy machine in the back of it, and would go, would rent a booth at the local county fairs. I remember going to the Windsor Fair, which is in Windsor, Maine, and a whole bunch of small fairs around central Maine. He would drop us off at nine o’clock in the morning, he’d come pick us up at nine o’clock at night, and he would pay, he paid us each two dollars a day. We thought we were doing extremely well—he was making, I don’t know, twenty dollars a day or whatever it was. He did pretty well all through high school and college.

AL: He had good labor.

GM: Right, right, as management, so I learned to be management. And then of course I met a guy like Shep who really was a management, managing a big enterprise, and I knew that I really wanted to be part of management then.

MH: Thank you for telling the car story. [Name omitted] said something to me about you and cars and driving. He was really confounded by you, because he would set up schedules, when you were in the Senate, and he’d have it all, he’d build in extra time for breaks and things like this, and he said that every time he did that, that you would say, “Well we can get from point A to point B seven minutes quicker.” And you’d make him change the schedule. You must have put in a lot of miles when you worked with Muskie and (unintelligible).

GM: I did, yeah, I drove Muskie around so I got to know the roads pretty well. But then I did them all myself.

HP: You would never drive George Mitchell anyplace without following his instructions. If you’d been, if you had driven from here to Harrison, Maine, four hundred times in your life, and you were then going to drive with George Mitchell to Harrison, Maine, and he sat in the passenger’s seat, he would tell you every turn to make. Okay?Well if we -” “I’ve done this trip four hundred times, George, I usually go straight.” “No-no-no-no-no, go right over here.”

GM: You know, I’ll tell you, one of the things, you speak about that, that used to drive me crazy. When I ran for governor I had a young guy who drove me around, he was really a nice, nice-nice kid, but here’s something that used to bother me. We would go up and down the Maine Turnpike, I mean you’re running for office in Maine, you’re on the turnpike a lot, you’re up and down, you’re up and down.

And so I had memorized every stop—there weren’t that many—and the amount that you had to pay. But when he was driving me, I was sitting in the front seat, he would drive the car, and even if there was a line, he would make no effort to prepare. We would get to the tollbooth, only when the car was at a complete stop he would roll down the window, he’d hand the ticket to the guy and he’d say, “How much?” And the attendant would say eighty cents, or a dollar-fifteen. At that point, he would for the first time get into his wallet, take out his wallet -

MH: The big tickets, yeah, the big ones.

GM: Yeah, they had those tickets—and pay the guy. And I once actually went through the mental exercise of trying to count ‘how much time did we lose’ through this whole exercise. It reminded me of Muskie.

I’ll never forget, Muskie had a—he was worse than I am in that respect. We used to drive every summer from Washington to Maine. Usually, when he had two cars, he would drive one and I would drive the other, with his wife and kids and the family’s things, and drive back. On one occasion Muskie and I drove to Maine together. In fact, it was in, I think he had a Valiant station wagon, and he spread out a little bit of foam cushion in the back and one of us would go and lie down on the foam cushion in the back while the other guy was driving.

But I’ll never forget, once, driving, we were on the Merritt Parkway in Connecticut, and it’s a two-lane each way road, two lanes in the north bound direction, and as I drove to pass a car and then to come back, Muskie said to me, “Have you ever thought about how much longer it takes you, how many miles you add to the trip, by changing lanes?” And I said, “No, I never thought about that.” “Well then,” he said, “do you think it’s much further if you change lanes or not, than if you just go in a straight line, that is, how much distance are you adding when you frequently change lanes?” I said, “Senator, I never, never have thought of that, and I don’t see how you could possibly calculate it.” “Well,” he said, “you should think about it.” So if you think I’m bad as ‘you’re the driver’ -

MH: The way [name omitted ] put it, he said, “Nobody can chop the clock like George Mitchell,” that was his conclusion.

GM: Well, I’ve been on every road in Maine many times, and I kind of knew—one time we got lost, the guy, this guy that was driving me, we were driving around somewhere, I was sleeping and we got lost, and I resolved then, I can’t do this, I got to stay awake. And of course I like maps anyway and, but my wife says that it made me very stubborn, that I’ll never admit that I had taken a wrong turn, and won’t ask anybody for directions. She’s probably right, there’s a certain amount of negative consequences that come from that. But through the years, I’ve been driving Lee motor vehicles. They’ve been -

MH: I’d like to ask Shep, if I may, were you on the Democratic State Committee at some point? You seem to be very much in the mix.

SL: I don’t think I was ever on the State Committee. I was always involved generally with either Muskie or George or something like that. I don’t believe I was ever on the State Committee.

GM: But he was on the Platform Committee, at the National Committee.

SL: I was.

GM: I remember that, yeah. He was a delegate to the National Convention more than once, I’m sure, Shep.

SL: But in ‘68, the exciting convention.

MH: Right, you were there.

SL: I was a sergeant-at-arms for the state of Maine.

MH: Really? Okay.

SL: No responsibilities.

MH: Were you on the floor during, while the demonstrations were going on outside?

SL: Yeah, yeah.

GM: Well, you know, Mike, I was there, and you didn’t know what was going on when you’re inside the hall. We’d have to go back to the hotel room at night, at the end of the convention, look at the television to see what was going on outside. We had no way of knowing, when you’re in the hall, what was occurring outside.

MH: Did you watch any of the convention this year?

SL: A little bit.

HP: You know that—this is off the subject of what we’re doing here today—outside the convention hall was where the real trouble was. And one night I was out there, I was going to the convention, and it was when things had erupted, and police on horseback had shut off streets, and the traffic was jammed up, and it was like three miles from the Hilton Hotel to the, it was a kind of a Hilton Hotel, to the, whatever the place was where they had the convention.

And a famous journalist, who both these guys know, shouted to me, was, had a car and a driver in a traffic jam, and he shouted from the passenger seat of this guy, “Get in here, get in here,” and it was Jimmy Breslin. I got in the back seat of the car, sitting there, he says, “What are you doing out there?” I said, “I’m trying to find a cab.” “You stupid -, you can’t find a cab.” I said, “Jimmy, it’s awful what these cops are doing to people.” You know what he said? He said, “What are you blaming the cops for?” He said, “Don’t you understand, these cops, most of them first generation, second generation Americans, their parents were immigrants, they live in a little house, got one car, they want their kid to go to college, and then they see all these kids out here, who weren’t brought up that way, who were brought up with more privilege, giving filthy signs to the cops and so forth.” He said, “Bound to infuriate them; their whole vision of what America is, is being undermined by these kids.” A totally different view on it.

GM: Yeah, than the one you had getting in -

HP: Than the one I had getting in the cab. Anyway, that’s, you know. (aside: I have to go in...)

AL: And can you talk a little bit about your tennis games? I know you both play tennis, and Harold as well.

SL: They always won. George is a very good tennis player, he plays tennis the way he lives his life, honest, steady, no mistakes, he’s a tough competitor.

GM: It really began in 1972. I’d never played much tennis before and I, after the Democratic Convention in Miami Beach, in which McGovern was nominated, Muskie was not. I came back to Maine, having taken a leave of absence to work on Muskie’s campaign, and with my family rented a cottage at Drake’s Island, which is in Wells, right, the southern part of Maine, near Kennebunk. I saw Senator Muskie for the first few days afterward. We were right there, and he was still discour-, depressed, trying to get over the convention and the campaign.

I happened to run into a guy that I knew, by accident I ran into a guy that I’d known previously and he had a couple kids who played tennis, so I hit a few balls. And then Shep had a friend, Bob Flynn was his name? The Bates [coach]? You don’t remember.

SL: Yeah, I remember the guy, but I’m not sure about the name.

GM: I think the name was Bob Flynn.

AL: It is.

GM: I think he was a coach at Bates or something?

AL: Yes, yes.

GM: And he was a friend of yours. And somehow you and I, and maybe Harold, got to hit a few balls with Bob Flynn. So you really were the one that got me into, into playing a little bit. I think that was the summer and fall of 1972. I’d never played tennis before that. And so we used to play, and then over the years we played quite a lot for a long time. But it’s always fun to play with Shep and with Harold and we ended up with a group of friends, probably as many over the course of years as eight or ten people who played on a, sort of a regular basis together, here in the Portland area. I miss that part of my life, yeah, it was wonderful.

AL: And do you still play tennis a lot?

GM: I do, yes, yeah, I won my club championship this summer, up in Seal Harbor. Three times I’ve won the championship; twice, two other times [I’ve] been in the finals. But the secret is to have a good partner and I have a very good partner. He’s about forty years old and he’s a great tennis player, and I sort of go along for the ride and the honor of it. Yeah, I play a lot in the summer. I don’t play at all in the off season, which is one of the difficulties of living in Manhattan. I’m trying to figure out a way to play there, but it takes more effort, more time, more preparation, it’s more of a production. It’s a lot easier here. So yes, I play, and I guess Shep, last time we played was a few years ago. We’ve both slowed down a little bit.

SL: Logical, logical.

GM: Yeah, yeah. And I don’t know whether Harold still plays tennis or not. He plays a lot of golf now.

SL: I’m not sure, I’m not sure.

GM: Although I have to tell you, I regret giving up golf. I had played a little golf before that, I played with Senator Muskie a few times and with others, and when I took up tennis in that summer of 1972, I would have been, what, well I would been thirty-nine then, I gave up golfing, took up tennis. I wish I’d continued, I’m glad I took up tennis, but I wish I hadn’t given up golf, yeah.

Now we have to. Shep, do you still swim every morning?

SL: No.

GM: You don’t? Yeah, Shep used to swim every morning for a long time.

SL: I’d love to get back to it, but haven’t quite done it.

GM: I mostly walk, I do a lot of walking. I live near Central Park and so I do my hikes around Central Park.

SL: I do bike riding.

GM: Pretty regularly. You bike ride now?

SL: I do, yeah.

GM: Yeah, yeah. Have you been on any bike riding trips with Candace lately?

SL: No, I’m just taking it up again.

GM: Are you? Well that’s good, that’s good that, you got to keep in shape because we got to have a big celebration on your ninetieth birthday.

SL: Okay.

AL: Senator Mitchell, I have to ask, when you go walking in Manhattan, do you just go out and walk, or do people go with you?

GM: No-no, I [go] by myself.

AL: You can just go and walk.

GM: Yeah. One thing I learned in Northern Ireland was that, or I say I learned, I became convinced of, that in terms of security, a president has and needs this all encompassing security. In between that, there are a lot of variations; usually one person accompanying you is something. And my experience is that having the one person accompanying you in some limited form actually makes you more vulnerable because it calls attention to you without providing any additional protection.

When I was Senate majority leader, one of my duties was to help decide when senators needed security. They’d go to the police and sometimes the police would check and say, “What should we do?” because different senators have different notions of when security might be required. Some may want it more often than others on less substantial and credible bases.

I did need security, extensive, I had it from time to time in the Senate on a regular basis, but on one occasion I had a very serious experience. There had been a man who I had prosecuted as U.S. attorney who had at my urging been sent to prison. And when he was released from prison he made a very explicit and serious death threat toward me. I was by then in the Senate. And the police took it seriously, the Capitol police contacted the local police in South Portland, and they provided for a period of some weeks at least a limited protection and supervision of my home—my wife and my daughter were living in South Portland, I was traveling back and forth—and I got beefed-up security when in Washington and traveling here. The police concern was that the most likely vulnerability would be when I was at some public event in Maine, because the guy had been from Maine.

But as it turned out, he was then re-arrested for separate events in Massachusetts, and the threat dissipated. But the point is that you have to try to evaluate how serious is the threat, and whether, what form of protection, if any, makes sense.

When I went to Northern Ireland, it was of course a very violent place and there were some threats. The British government provided me with a car and a couple of drivers who were also a form of security detail. But what I learned, what I felt was, after consultation with both the British government and Irish government security forces and other police officials, was that you’re better off to, the most effective thing you could do is to vary your routine in a way that no one can establish a pattern. So, for example, I changed hotels frequently in Northern Ireland, I lived in one hotel for a couple of days, and then I’d go to another and back and forth, so over time I stayed in several of them for different periods. It’s a little inconvenient, but I did that.

I also routinely changed, in fact didn’t establish, a time or a route from the hotel to the location of the negotiations often until I got in the car. When the driver would drop me off at night at the hotel, I would say to him, pick me up at seven tomorrow, or seven thirty, or six forty-five. I didn’t establish the time until the night before, and I didn’t establish the route until I got in the car the next morning, I’d say, well, go by Victoria Street, or go another way. Just to vary it, and so that there couldn’t be any prior notice I really didn’t decide it until I got in the car. That way I figured nobody, not even the drivers, would know exactly. Sometimes I didn’t say anything and they, many times I didn’t say anything, they would take the normal, most direct route.

Then later in the process in Northern Ireland, toward the end when it looked like there might be some progress in the talks, there were a series of threats. Most of them were generalized, and my recollection is that the police informed me that they were directed toward, quote, a ‘prominent figure’ in the talks. The police thought that it was probably either me or the British secretary of state for Northern Ireland, prominent, the Cabinet member responsible for Northern Ireland. And so what they recommended was I change my routine and reduce the length of time that I stayed in Northern Ireland.

And the manner in which it was accomplished is the following: there was no such thing as a typical week, but often in the talks, what I would do, at least in the early part, I would leave New York Sunday morning, fly to London, and change planes and fly on a late flight from London to Belfast. There are now direct flights between New York and Belfast, but there were not then. So I would arrive at the hotel in Belfast late Sunday evening. The talks would take place Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, the negotiations, but [p/o] almost all of the people in the talks were public officials, they were elected; they had other duties, members of Parliament, mayors, local council members.

Thursday was usually reserved for informal discussions, dealing with issues that were raised during the three days, private meetings one-on-one and so forth. And then I would leave on a Friday morning and I’d come back to the United States. I’d spend a day-and-a-half, two days here, try to catch up, and then I’d go back on Sunday.

Well, what the police recommended was that instead of leaving on the Sunday morning flight and spending that night in Northern Ireland, that I leave Sunday evening, fly overnight, and get to Belfast Monday morning. That avoided one night in Belfast. Of course it made it very hard, because I’d land and I had to go right to the talks, and it’s really tiring to go and sit. And then, where possible on Wednesday or Thursday, instead of staying overnight in Belfast and then leaving there early in the morning, flying to London, then London-New York, I would fly from Belfast to London. And oftentimes the British government, they don’t have a fleet of planes like we do, they have small jets on charter service, they would charter a flight for me to leave, say, late Wednesday night, stay at a hotel at the airport in London, and then fly out of London early in the morning.

So I would reduce the number of nights in Belfast from four to two, or from five to three, and reduce the number of trips back and forth from a hotel to the location. That was deemed the moment of, the time of greatest vulnerability. Once in the, the location was a compound, it was a government office that was, you know, they had gates and wires and police and so forth, so there was very little vulnerability inside the talks. The vulnerability was judged usually to be going to and from the hotel to the talks or vice versa.

The security officials there were very good, they confirmed, look, you’re better off just keeping a low profile, don’t have an entourage, don’t announce your travel, don’t even decide your travel ahead of time, till as late as you can, tell as few people as possible, and above all vary your routine. Don’t ever travel in a pattern that can be by surveillance determined and detected. So I still do that, I don’t have an entourage with me when I travel, and I myself decide what planes I’ll take and travel and so forth, and so far at least it’s worked.

AL: Thank you so much.

GM: Yes, thank you.

AL: Thank you, Shep, as well.

SL: Sure.

End of Interview

 
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Interview with Shep Lee, George J. Mitchell, and Harold Pachios by Mike Hastings and Andrea L’Hommedieu

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