George J. Mitchell Oral History Project


Lee E. Lockwood


Brien Williams



ID Number

GMOH 053

Document Type


Subject Headings

Administrative staff, Majority Leader, Muskie, Edmund S., Presidential campaign (1972)


Biographical Note
Lee Enfield Lockwood was born February 17, 1946, in Cumberland, Maryland, to Sarah and Sam Enfield. She grew up in Houston, Texas, attending a local public elementary school and a private high school. She was graduated from Duke University in 1968 with a major in political science. She moved to Washington, DC, and was hired onto Senator Muskie’s staff. She worked for Muskie from 1969 to 1978, first sorting and reading the mail and eventually handling speech writing and legislation. She worked for Senator Mitchell when he was majority leader, handling correspondence in his Senate office from 1989-1993.

Interview includes discussion of: family and educational background; Muskie’s Senate office; Muskie’s 1972 presidential bid and working in the “boiler room” of that campaign; differences between Muskie and Mitchell related to the office environment; the process of handling the senators’ mail; Senator Mitchell’s relationship with his staff; the qualities that make a successful Senate staffer; what Mitchell will be remembered for; and the difference between academic discussion of politics and the interpersonal relationships that make it work.


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.


Brien Williams: This is an oral history interview with Lee Lockwood for the George J. Mitchell Oral History Project at Bowdoin College in Maine. We’re in [Mrs.] Lockwood’s Washington, D.C., home, today is Monday, December 8, 2008, and I’m Brien Williams. Lee, let’s start with you giving me your full name and spelling, the date and place of your birth, and your parents’ names.

Lee Lockwood: My name is Lee Enfield Lockwood, it’s L-E-E, and the middle name is Enfield, E-N-F-I-E-L-D, that’s my maiden name. I was born on February 17, 1946, in Cumberland, Maryland. My father’s name is Samuel Ernest Enfield; my mother’s name was Sarah Booe Enfield, that’s B-O-O-E.

BW: Now, I’ve listened to, or read the transcripts from your two interviews with the Muskie Oral History Project at Bates College so there’s some things we don’t need to cover here today because you’ve already talked about that in some detail in that oral history, but I like to make the cross reference to the two. Let’s start with your graduating from Duke University, and what steps took you from Duke to D.C.?

LL: I was very close to family in western, part of western Maryland, I had graduated with a degree in political science, I did not want to go home to Texas, where I was raised, and Washington, I had visited Washington a lot, it seemed like a nice place to come [to]. It was right after a presidential campaign, 1968, I came here in the summer of ‘69, ended up, it was hard to find a job, ended up volunteering in Senator Muskie’s office and from that I was hired.

BW: And what drew you to Muskie’s office, rather than any other senator’s?

LL: His reputation, his reputation from the campaign. Obviously being from Texas, I had not much contact with Maine at the time, but to be honest, I liked the people in the office and they, the more I read about him, it just seemed like a good fit. And they actually offered me a job, which was key.

BW: Did you try some other senators’ offices, or was that really your first -?

LL: I’m sure I did, and I don’t remember. I remember going, my congressman was Bob Eckhart, and George Bush was, I knew his son and I had met him a number of times, so I actually went and interviewed with both of them and nothing came of that.

BW: And so you had no role in Muskie’s ‘68 vice presidential campaign at all?

LL: No, wish I had, but I was a year too late.

BW: So what were your first, when did you first become aware of George Mitchell?

LL: Probably in the 1970 campaign. He had left the Senate staff before I got there, and he ran, I guess he ran the 1970 campaign, senatorial campaign, and I used to get phone calls from him, you know, asking questions about certain issues and stuff, so I met him I guess first over the phone. And then I think a bunch of us went up for that election.

BW: And what were the issues you were working on that he was interested in getting your insight on?

LL: Only one I remember was, he wanted crime statistics, and I guess I was working on the Judiciary Committee. These were legislative assistant assignments and I think I had committees that Muskie was not on. I had Foreign Relations, Judiciary, and maybe Agriculture. And it was pretty low level; I mean I was green as a gourd. But I think he, the one I remember was calling me with questions about crime statistics, and both of us being sort of startled that they were not available, that the FBI didn’t keep them at that time, so. I don’t remember other questions.

BW: When you went to work in ‘69, were you aware of any sort of residual influence of Mitchell having been the executive assistant in an earlier, a couple years before? Was there sort of a legacy there, or not?

LL: I don’t remember. I don’t remember. I mean people talked about him, but I can’t remember there being some kind of aura or – I mean Don Nicoll was in charge and he ran the office, you know, he was in charge. I don’t remember there being – but I was, you know, an outsider. I mean I was the token Southerner on the staff. It took a while to sort of get into the circle.

BW: And was Mitchell periodically coming down to Washington and dropping by the office?

LL: Probably, probably.

BW: But you didn’t have any particular interactions and whatnot.

LL: No, unh-unh.

BW: So I’m presuming the first time you and he maybe did work somewhat together was during the ‘72 campaign, would that be correct?

LL: Yeah, but there again, I was so low down on the totem pole that I didn’t have much interaction. I was in the boiler room, and there were multiple layers between Senator Mitchell and me.

BW: I want you to describe the boiler room.

LL: The boiler room. The person in charge was Barbara Coleman, who had been in the boiler room for Bobby Kennedy, I guess. It was sort of a chaotic campaign operation where everybody was given state assignments and we were supposed to interact with the in-state [p/o] coordinator, each one had several states, and then they had a boiler room person who was under them and who sort of gathered, we were supposed to gather information, be in charge of mailings and just try and generally support them. And there were about five of us, I guess, and we had a lot of fun. It was pretty late-night, you know, long, long hours.

BW: And where was the boiler room physically located?

LL: The building, I think it was, they changed the, it was on K Street and I think they changed the number of the building. I was appalled. Nineteen seventy-two, I think they changed it to 1972, I don’t remember what it was before.

BW: It was in the 1900-block of K Street. How interesting.

LL: It was an old building. It’s not there anymore, I’m sure. But that’s, yeah, that’s where we were.

BW: So what was your relationship to the Senate office at that point, or were you off that payroll and somewhere different?

LL: Well see, that’s where McEvoy came in. They were in the, McEvoy came with his team let’s say in the spring of 1971, and they were obviously going to upgrade, you know, they were headed into a presidential campaign, and he didn’t actually fire me, he treated me better than he treated a lot of people. But he offered me the job of doing the mail and I didn’t want to do that, so I left voluntarily and I went back to my, the place I always went to when I was sort of out of work and needed a respite, which was a fish market in Nantucket, and I worked there during the summer. And then somehow, I guess towards the end of the summer, Barbara called and got in touch with me. And maybe I had written to, I may have written to – well, he wasn’t senator then, but Senator Mitchell or to Gayle Cory or somebody, to say that, you know, if there was a place on the campaign I’d like to do that. And then somehow I ended up working on K Street, in the boiler room.

BW: So McEvoy was in the Senate office, but was conducting things as related to a presidential campaign rather than to day-to-day senatorial activities, would that -?

LL: [p/o] I don’t remember when the campaign staff was first set up but it was sometime that spring, and I don’t remember how big it was. I know that Don went over there I think, and Ty Brown. And they were sort of hiring people, it was much more casual than it is today. And McEvoy was upgrading, whatever, the Senate staff to be able to [p/o] support a senator who was not just a senator from Maine.

BW: So your duties in the boiler room were pretty much relations with a certain number of states. Which quarter of the country, or portion of the country?

LL: I had New Hampshire, which sort of ended everything. No, I had a random – I can’t remember. I had New Hampshire and, [gosh] I’m drawing a blank. It doesn’t really matter.

BW: Well, New Hampshire, though, being so critical, I mean that was testimony to your abilities I think that you were put in that -

LL: I, it’s where I first met Tony Podesta, and John Podesta actually. John has really shot up to the top, hasn’t he? That was an interesting thing. [p/o]

BW: Now, were you aware of George Mitchell working that campaign?

LL: Yeah, yeah, of course, I mean he was in charge.

BW: So did you have personal interactions with him, or, or not?

LL: See, this is why I’m not sure why I’m on the list. I mean some, but again, there were so many layers between – and it’s funny, you know, it was a campaign that was run sort of like Muskie’s temperament. I mean you didn’t, there was not a lot of upward filtration of ideas, is my impression, and it was fairly hierarchical, I guess. And it was perhaps easier for me than some other people, because I had been on the Senate staff and I knew Don and I knew, I don’t remember when Don left, but I mean I knew more people than other people in the boiler room. But, I mean George was around but –

BW: Was –

LL: Jack English, people had a lot more interaction with Jack English.

BW: I’m curious from your perspective about your thoughts on how a senator, Muskie, becomes a presidential candidate and, you know, what kind of a, does he change, is he made to change? I think you made some interesting comment in the Bates [Muskie oral history interview] about there being, he couldn’t be himself, perhaps?

LL: Well I think he didn’t change, that was one of the problems. I mean he was, he was a very thoughtful man. Now, this is all from a distance, okay? Because I was not that close to him either. In fact, I knew him better many years later. He was a very thoughtful man, and the push and pull, the demands for compromises, the demands for him to do things that didn’t fit right. Like I think there was a time when some school in Jackson, Mississippi, there were some riots on campus or something, and he was urged to go down there, and it didn’t fit him, it didn’t fit his, it was much more George McGovern or Johnny-on-the-Spot. He liked to have time to think. I just think he wasn’t comfortable in [that] role that – and [p/o] not having been through the ‘68 campaign, [p/o] but he was vice president instead of the presidential candidate, he could assume a lower profile, and he came across as a breath of fresh air, I think. And that was because of who he was and the way that he was. And trying to fit him into another box I think – lots of ‘ums’ in here.

BW: In the Bates interview you describe the ‘68 campaign as being fun, and that’s what made me think perhaps you’d been involved in it. I think you said that that was fun, but the ‘72 – maybe you said it sounded like it had been fun, and that ‘72 -

LL: Oh yeah, absolutely. I was not there, but people had a blast.

BW: And in what words would you describe, then, the ‘72 campaign, as it unfolded and ended?

LL: Well, just like, you know, kind of a slow pain. I mean it never really, you never really had the feeling that it took off, and there were so many little – people talk about the Bradley effect. I remember the time Bradley interviewed. Well, it was a meeting with Muskie and I don’t know who else, and Bradley came out and said that Muskie had said he didn’t think the country was ready for a black president. And I had to go speak to a student group the next, right, not long after that. I don’t even remember where it was. I want to say Minnesota [sic: Wisconsin], is that possible? Anyway, boy, I mean that was like, that was rough. And so there really, I, you know, there was never a lot of joy. It was excitement, but it just, it kind of was sort of a grinding, you know, and then the New Hampshire thing happened and I remember listening on the radio and thinking, ‘I don’t know what this means but I’m not sure it’s good.’ So it wasn’t joyous. But everyone sounded like they had a wonderful time on the ‘68 campaign. They got their own plane, they got to fly all over the place, you know.

BW: Different. So talk about the closing down of the boiler room, and what did you do then?

LL: Well I had gone to New Hampshire, and then after New Hampshire I went to – this is the one I can’t remember.

BW: Is it Illinois?

LL: Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

BW: Hmm-hmm.

LL: Yeah, I went to Wisconsin, not Minnesota. And then things just gradually sort of [fell apart]; I remember there was a meeting in Chicago of all the big honchos, and to tell you the truth, I think we just kind of came home. You know, the jobs were over. I was in Boston for a while, I guess I stayed through the, that was like on April 23rd, the Massachusetts primary, and after that it was all over. And I don’t remember, we just kind of went home.

BW: Was it a relief to get out of the boiler room and in the field, or was it just more painful, or how would you contrast the two areas?

LL: Massachusetts was horrible. Actually, Senator Mitchell was there, I mean I think that was maybe the last day, and I don’t remember when the Wisconsin primary was. Being there was like sort of a slow death, in Massachusetts. Kevin White had promised his band of – he was the mayor, and he had a large network and he had promised all, but the handwriting was on the wall and he didn’t do anything. So you just knew.

BW: Did you see much of Muskie during this period of time?

LL: Unh-unh.

BW: So the campaign ended, and what did you do?

LL: Well, I spent some time, I had a boyfriend who also had worked on the campaign, and I spent some time with him in New Jersey, and then I came back in the fall and decided I was going to go to graduate school and took some class – started some classes – and, I don’t know, nothing really came of it. Then in the fall of, I mean the spring of ‘73 Al From called, wanting me to come work for this subcommittee, and I stayed there until 1978 when I took my leave.

BW: And what were, well, those years I think were covered in the Bates interview, too.

LL: Hmm-hmm. And I think there was virtually no contact with Senator Mitchell that I can recall. I mean, he was up there being a judge, right?

BW: Lawyer and then judge, yeah. So then tell me the circumstances where you connected with George Mitchell and then eventually became part of his operation.

LL: Well, as I said earlier, I had come to a point where my children were old enough that I, I was ready for, you know, to get back into the professional world a little bit, at least part time. So, I mean I hadn’t really planned it through. They were, you know, I had been home ten years, and when he was elected majority leader I thought, well, he might need more staff, and I either wrote Gayle or phoned her or something and they immediately phoned or wrote back and said, please come and help us with the mail. And that was the only way I was going to get back in, having been in this sort of corridor of Maine, this was my best outlet. And I enjoyed being back there.

BW: And this was in the Senate office, or in the majority’s?

LL: Senate office.

BW: And what was it like, how would you compare the Senate office under Mitchell with the Senate office under Muskie?

LL: Ooh. There were so many of the same people. Probably more relaxed. Senator Muskie was really shielded by, you know, his higher staff, I mean he was really protected because he didn’t relish staff interactions all that much. I mean Leon, you know Leon, and they had a unique relationship. I guess it was a little bit more informal. Senator Mitchell spent most of his time in his Capitol office, so -

BW: Anything about the mail that was passing through your hands that you want to tell me about?

LL: No, except that when he became majority leader he made the decision to answer all mail, not just mail from Maine, so it went from however many letters a week to five times that much. We had, depending on the issue, we’d have five thousand letters a week. And I am glad that it was before e-mail. I don’t know what they do now, I cannot imagine. Because people can just sit at their computer and, you know, write forever. No, nothing special that I would like to -

BW: Taking off on this last comment you made comparing mail-mail with e-mail and so forth, probably some people in the future will think, well how did the mail room work, I mean what did they do, and how did they handle that, so I think maybe it would be interesting to have you describe that process.

LL: Well, it came in by the bagful, you know, we had people in the, one or two people in the mailroom who sorted it. We had legislative correspondents who were assigned by committee, issues by committee, so that would get spread out. And I would sort of help them with language, make sure that people who needed a higher up response were pulled out and sent in to, for Mitchell’s signature. You know, it’s how it was organized, you just, you’re dealing with enormous piles of paper all the time. And we did have a robo operation, so when you had a thousand postcards about something – the death tax, you know – you would just do a form letter and send them out. But you did the very best that you could, and there were always letters that didn’t get answered, and Mitchell seemed to be pleased with the way it worked so – it’s not very complicated, really.

BW: But it did involve huge volumes when he was the majority leader.

LL: And I felt at the end of it, of all these years, that I have probably written to most everybody in the state of Maine, or at least seen a letter from them over the years.

BW: How influential do you feel mail was at that time?

LL: Well the mass mailings I felt were not influential, because that was in the beginning of – I’ll never forget, the first time I heard – I don’t know, I’m sure you’ll talk to David Johnson, or somebody is – when he became, when he went on the outside he became a lobbyist, and he talked about grassroots lobbying. And I had lunch with him one day and I said, “What do you mean?” And he said, “Well, we hire, you know, people, we go in and organize, we get peo-, you know, we print up postcards and we put them at the end of the grocery checkout line and you’re, you know, you’re asked to sign it.” And it was like the opposite of [p/o] grassroots organizing. [p/o] I’m sure we counted them but they would all be the same. Personal letters, I think they had some effect. I like to think that they do, because otherwise why bother?

BW: So what prompted your leaving this?

LL: See, I was always coming and going. I think I left, I had to have surgery and I think I didn’t want to do it anymore. I stayed until ninety -

BW: Three is what I -

LL: Well, I remember, we had, I remember I stayed through that inauguration. I think I didn’t want to do it anymore. I had gone through, it was like a, really a forty-eight, a forty-hour-a-week job. I would bring mail home and spread it out on the floor in that room, you know, five hundred letters, and try and, and at the same time I was PTA president and I went through a renovation on the house. I mean I don’t know, at this point, I don’t know how I did it all, you know, but I did, but I think I was just really tired and I didn’t want to do it any more. And there really wasn’t anyplace else in that office for me to go. Had there been, maybe I would have stayed, but -

BW: During that period of time, did you have any memorable interactions with George Mitchell?

LL: Oh, he gave us a luncheon, for all the ladies who had helped during the inauguration. We put up the University of Southern Maine saxophone quartet, at our house, and I ferried them all over town. And we actually had a blast. I would have interactions with him about specific letters. That was actually the way I communicated with him, was to, we’d get a letter from the president of GM, I don’t know if it’s the same guys now, Wagoner, I don’t know, and he’s complaining about the restrictions, and they’re rewriting the, they’re reauthorizing the Clean Air Act in 1990, and that was the way I had my input. I wrote him a very snippy letter, and then made sure that it went to the Senator.

But you see, there was, I was a part-timer and I worked on the mail. And nobody wants to deal with the mail, and so they’re happy that it’s taken care of, they’re happy that you’re over there doing it but they really don’t want to hear anything about it. So I remember, you know, going to some staff meetings over in the Capitol office and, you know, the mail just sort of didn’t ever come up. So I didn’t really feel like I was part of the organization, I felt like I was, again, kind of, you know, down at the bottom, and I think I just didn’t want to do it anymore.

BW: And where were you physically located?

LL: In the Senate office. I had to have thyroid surgery, you know, there were just some issues and so it was -

BW: What about the staff that you were heading, how many people were working in the mail room?

LL: I’m still friends with some of them. (unintelligible). They stayed, and somebody else in the office came and took my job, Alice Stewart, who may be on your list also. I don’t know; is somebody else doing this with you? Okay.

BW: So how many staff were there?

LL: Probably six, five or six, no, probably, yeah, five.

BW: And were they looking to move into other roles, or were they mail people for life?

LL: [p/o] [They all went on to other things. This was a job to take while you were kind of young and wanted to live in Washington. And they, I don’t know how long they stayed after I left. We were actually quite close. [p/o]

BW: What words would you use to describe Mitchell’s office atmosphere, what was it like as a workspace?

LL: Supportive, serious. There was always, I guess he was down here by himself. At the time he, he relied pretty heavily on staff to get things done for him, you know, to get his digital, whatever, his cable installed, and so there was always an overlay of sort of concern and also some humor about the Senator’s person, because -

BW: Can you expand on that just a little bit?

LL: Well, he just, he was a bit on the sort of helpless side when it came to sort of domestic things, that was the impression. You had to make appointments for him, and Donna, you know, was, had a big role in his domestic needs, getting, you know, “So-and-so across the street, Senator so-and-so across the street has cable and I don’t, why not?” you know. But you know, he was a serious worker and quite focused on his work, and he didn’t have a – I don’t know if this is when he got divorced, but in either event, he didn’t have a support, a spouse, so the office was that. But it was friendly, supportive. I don’t think I ever remember anybody getting yelled at.

(Animal sounds)

BW: We have a contribution here – what’s your dog’s name?

LL: Remy.

BW: Remy, okay. And during the period when you were there, was there a sequence of AA’s, or was there one the whole time, and who was that?

LL: [Gosh], well John Hilley. I got there right after Martha had left, I guess Martha had been in charge of the Senate office, is that right? Martha Pope. And then she went over to the, the whole center of gravity shifted to the Capitol office. We did have an AA in our office, [p/o] we did, Mary McAleney, that’s right.

BW: And she was, she and Hilley were at different times? She the whole time?

LL: She was there the whole time I was there, and then she, I don’t know when she left, she went back to Maine. It was a very difficult work situation for her.

BW: Let’s talk a little bit about Senate staffers. How would you describe them as, generically, or as a group, is there a way to do that, or is it -?

LL: I don’t know that I could.

BW: Are there certain personality types that are drawn to that kind of work?

LL: Well, I guess, sure, you’re more likely to get sort of ambitious, smart people, and the ones who are best at it are ambitious and smart. People who basically are younger, because the hours are such that if you’re married or if you have children, I think it’s harder, it’s hard on your family. People who are probably at some level idealistic, at least in the beginning.

BW: What happens to that idealism?

LL: Well, you know, power corrupts. I mean I wouldn’t say that anybody I knew was corrupted, certainly, but you learn that, you know, it’s a big, it’s a lot of trading going on and you can’t be, you come in there with hopes that you’re going to affect the planet in one way or another, and if you’re lucky you do. But they become very, I think the good ones have become very loyal to their principal and, you know, believe in him. At least that was my experience. I was very lucky to work for two people who were people of enormous integrity.

BW: And how does personal life and the senator’s life, what’s the balance there for staffers? Can you talk a little bit about that?

LL: You mean how does the senator’s personal life interfere with -?

BW: No, how is a staffer’s personal life affected by being a servant to a senator?

LL: Well, you just have really long hours. And depending on your position in the office, you’re on call. Gayle Cory did that for Muskie, and Gayle was in Mitchell’s office when I first got there but then she went over to the Post Office. I’m not sure why, maybe she needed a higher salary to round out her retirement, I’m not sure. But yeah, her life was all, she was always on call.

BW: But did that all –

LL: And probably Donna was, too.

BW: Yeah, I was wondering how far down in the staff that went. Now what about if the Senator was in the office on a non-session Saturday, was everyone expected to come in, or just certain people expected to be there?

LL: Probably just certain people.

BW: Did you see any changes in staffers and staff culture between your early days with Muskie and your last days with Mitchell, had things changed at the staff level?

LL: It was more, I don’t want to use the word ‘professional’ but I guess – not that Muskie’s staff was not professional, but it was collegial and loyal and Mitchell was majority leader so it was a tighter run ship. [p/o] I guess [Muskie] wasn’t ever committee chairman, was he?

BW: The Subcommittee on [Intergovernmental Relations].

LL: Yeah, he was never a committee chairman, so I guess it was the majority leader thing. And I wasn’t in Senator Mitchell’s office before he was majority leader so I don’t know really how it changed, except that I just was told that there was this sort of vacuum of pow-, you know, giant sucking sound where the power went from the Senate office to the Capitol office.

BW: So did some people in the Senate office resent – that was troublesome for them.

LL: Hmm-hmm.

BW: Anything more to say on that?

LL: Access to the body is key, and that is something that is one of the probably less attractive sides of being a Senate staffer, because your influence is partially determined by your access to the body. Or the body being, you know, maybe through e-mail or something, but in those days it was – and if your memos had to be screened by John Hilley, that means you may or may not have access.

BW: Was there –

LL: It added another level. [p/o]

BW: Well, there was a lot of looking over one’s shoulder and a lot of protecting the Senator from staff misbehaviors or something, or not?

LL: From staff misbehavior?

BW: Well, I’m not asking this question at all well. But I mean, sometimes if you, if a lower level, at a certain level you’re constantly being, having to be checked by the next levels up, it can become kind of a, you know, it interferes with your work.

LL: It’s not as collegial, and I think Senator Mitchell’s operation was not as collegial, maybe for the reasons that he was majority leader and Senator Muskie wasn’t, maybe because the difference in personality between John Hilley and Don Nicoll, you know.

BW: Just describe that just briefly, what the difference was there.

LL: Well, I didn’t know Hilley at all well so I probably shouldn’t say.

BW: Well, describe Don Nicoll then.

LL: But [John] was chief of staff for the majority leader and he had to make things work, and they had to work right. And you weren’t just dealing with one senator, you were dealing with the whole Senate, and it was a much more kind of buttoned up outfit. Don was very serious and completely and totally loyal to Muskie [p/o]. It was just more collegial, that’s really the best word I can think of.


BW: That was the transition, when that occurred. And that went on, do you imagine, without Muskie knowing much about it, or with Muskie’s complete approval, or where was Muskie in the transfer of power?

LL: I’ve never actually thought about that.

BW: How do you think George Mitchell will be remembered?

LL: For the Irish thing, the treaty. It seems to me that more people will remember that than his, you know, his Senate career, because he wasn’t in the Senate all that long, in the end. People who, environmental types will remember what he did with Acid Rain and the Clean Air Act. I think probably a lot of people wish that he had, if you asked them, would wish that he had stayed in public life longer I think. But I -

(Outside interruption)

BW: Stayed in public life a little bit longer.

LL: What do I think he’ll be most remembered for? Strong Democrat, strong Democratic leader, a man of honor, smart man, very highly respected.

BW: And among majority leaders, is he a majority leader’s majority leader, or one of the pack, would you say?

LL: I’m really not qualified to answer that. I think that the other side felt that he was partisan, which one is. And he was opposite Bob Dole, so, hello.

BW: Do you want to describe that relationship?

LL: I don’t know anything about it; I was not in a position to.

BW: Why do you think George Mitchell left the Senate so early?

LL: I think he probably wanted to make some money. He came from, as you know, very poor background, and the Senate is, senators are well paid but they’re not that well paid. That would be my guess. And the thing about the Supreme Court, that’s the only reason I can think of, why somebody would turn that down.

BW: That’s a good point, yeah. You said something in the Bates interview that intrigued me -

LL: I clearly should have read this before, reread this. You’re throwing my words back at me.

BW: Well, I wanted, you know, I obviously wanted to be prepared for this interview. You said that when you left Duke you had an academic understanding of politics and whatnot, and then that was followed by all this practical, and you said you’re not quite sure what the relationship is between an academic view of politics and the practical, and I wanted you to expand a little bit on that.

LL: Well, it may have been the courses that I took, but you study the way it’s supposed to work, the way they say it works, but you can’t ever quantify what really happens. You can’t quantify the personal chemistry, the give and take. I mean how are you going to? So much of it is personal chemistry, so much of it is local, and so much of it is who has more staff, so much of it is seniority. I just think that it’s not, you can’t quantify it really. You take a course in constitutional law, and ‘this is the way it’s supposed to be.’ And that’s, maybe that’s not a good example, because by and large, although these days it’s not altogether clear. I just think it’s the difference between reading a story and living a story.

BW: So it’s not that academia is withholding information, or just so isolated from the real world that it’s completely theoretical?

LL: No-no-no, it’s not completely theoretical. But, you know, if your boss doesn’t like you, you’re not going to get anywhere, even though you have a job description. Or if you don’t like your boss, you’re not going to, you’re not going to be loyal, you’re not going to do your best. All this interpersonal stuff is absolutely critical in how it all works.

BW: Did you ever go to an academic setting and talk about your work on the Hill?

LL: Unh-unh.

BW: And it would be unfair for me to ask you to come up with your lecture notes now.

LL: I don’t know if this is a good example, but I told you I had the – and I think this was in the Bates interview. I had, quote, “responsibility for the Agriculture Committee,” and of course nothing ever happened. I mean, we had the Maine Potato Council, but it was so local [p/o]. So then Muskie’s going to run for president, and they’re reauthorizing the Farm Bill, and I spend time with this guy, Dr. Mancur Olson from the University of Maryland, and he comes and he patiently tries to teach me about, you know, allotments and this, that and the other. And I write at the end a very informative memo about which way Senator Muskie should vote on which votes, and I take it to him on the floor and he looks at me kind of skeptical, like, “You’re twenty-four years old, what do you know about this?” And he calls Senator Hart over, Phil Hart, who was his best friend, and says, “Phil, what should I do about this?” And Phil says, “I think you need to vote the way the lady said.” Now he wasn’t, that was that personal relationship with Phil Hart, and he did not have that relationship with me. And that’s just one personal example. [p/o]

BW: So I gather what you’re saying is it’s the personal politics, personal politics arena?

LL: It’s the interpersonal relationships.

BW: And then also the inability to be quite as idealistic because of the practicalities of legislation and so forth.

LL: Well I – politics is the art of the compromise.

BW: Right, right. You mention Muskie and Phil Hart. Who were George Mitchell’s pals in the Senate?

LL: Oh [gosh], I don’t know. I honestly don’t know.

BW: You didn’t see any particular senator coming in and out the side door all the time, to pal around with him?

LL: I wasn’t over there.

BW: Right, right. To finish up, are there any interesting personal stories from your time on the Hill that you didn’t describe in the Bates interviews that –

LL: Involved Senator Mitchell?

BW: Hmm-hmm. Any funny or stressful or whatever?

LL: Well, you know, I haven’t really had, this has been a crazy, absolutely crazy month for me, and I haven’t thought about it. And so I guess what I should do is just say if I think of something I’ll, you know, I’ll let you know. But nothing – Senator Mitchell’s a much more controlled personality than Senator Muskie. Senator Muskie was, you know, had a temper, and everybody saw that. Senator Mitchell was, I think, much more - Certainly I never saw any, I didn’t see a lot of humor, I didn’t see any temper; he’s very evenly controlled, it seemed to me. I can’t think of anything funny about him.

BW: And he never told a joke.

LL: Oh he, you know, there was a joke about his brother who was a famous [basketball] player in Maine, and when he was campaigning and people would say, “Oh, you’re John Mitchell’s brother,” or something like that. I mean, you know: he was a nobody. But no, I don’t remember jokes he told. But again, I didn’t go through any Senate campaigns with him, I’ve just had this little window, little window, through the mail.

BW: Good, well I guess we’re done. Thank you.

End of Interview

Media is loading