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George Mitchell

George John Mitchell is the American special envoy to the Middle East for the Obama administration. A Democrat, Mitchell was a United States Senator who served as the Senate Majority[…]

Is the government doing enough for the environment?

Question: Should the government be doing more for the environment?

George Mitchell: Well, I think it’s a fair, for me, statement to make-- obviously, he wouldn’t think it fair-- but I think the Bush Administration has been disastrous with respect to the environment. One of the really ironic things is that the Clean Air bill, which I mentioned earlier, would not have become law but for the support of the first President Bush. We tried throughout the Reagan presidency to move a Clean Air bill, but President Reagan was adamantly opposed and we couldn’t move it at all. But when the first George Bush took office, he said, publicly, he was for Clean Air legislation, so instantly the debate changed from, “Will there be a bill?” to “What will be in the bill?” We had a very lengthy process. I, and other senators, had a long negotiation with representatives of the President. We had a lot of disagreement on what ought to be in the bill. But there wouldn’t have been a bill without his support and he came up with some really good ideas: the CAP and training system was a proposal by the Bush Administration, not by members of Congress, not by Democrats. In fact, I argued to my Democratic colleagues in the Senate who were opposed to the proposal that we’re in a negotiation and we can’t have everything our own way, and that’s the nature of a negotiation. Here’s an idea, it may work, it may not, but the President feels strongly about it we ought to try it. If it doesn’t work, we’ll come back and see what we can do, and it’s actually worked quite well. So, one of the ironies of the current administration is that they really haven’t enforced the law as it was intended to be enforced, and they haven’t dealt with many of the other issues, of course- climate change and global warming being the most significant of them. So, it’s a real question as to how high a value Americans place on protection of the environment. I think there’s a general sense that they favor it, but it tends not to be an issue that is pivotal in how many people vote. There are other issues: the economy, the war in Iraq, a lot of other things, so it isn’t the highest-level issue, but I think it ought to be, particularly with respect to climate change.