Negotiator George Mitchell On Northern Ireland, The Middle East — And Now The Shutdown

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Former United States Special Envoy George Mitchell. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Former United States Special Envoy George Mitchell. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Find our buildout from this hour, featuring a partial transcription, here.

With Meghna Chakrabarti

How do you end an intractable impasse? Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell helped do exactly that in Northern Ireland. Mitchell joins us with his advice on ending the current U.S. government shutdown.


Gabby Orr, White House reporter for Politico. (@GabbyOrr_)

George Mitchell, Democratic senator from Maine from 1980 to 1995, and Senate majority leader from 1989 to 1995. U.S. special envoy for Northern Ireland, helping to secure the Good Friday Agreement. U.S. special envoy for Middle East Peace from 2009–2011.

Author of "The Negotiator: A Memoir" and co-author of "A Path to Peace: A Brief History of Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations and a Way Forward in the Middle East."

From The Reading List

Politico: "Mark Meadows, Trump whisperer" — "When Mark Meadows didn’t get President Donald Trump’s chief of staff gig, he wasn’t losing out on much.

"Just 10 days later, the powerful conservative lawmaker managed to engineer what has become the longest-running government shutdown ever — persuading Trump to pull the trigger right as the partial closure was on the brink of being avoided.

"Meadows picked up the phone to make his move just after Vice President Mike Pence had told lawmakers over lunch on Dec. 19 — two days before government funding would expire — that Trump was prepared to sign a clean spending bill to keep the government open through early February. The North Carolina Republican, who helped shutter the government in 2013 during a revolt against Obamacare, wasn’t prepared to back away from demanding funds for a border wall. And despite Pence’s clear-as-day comments, he assumed the president wasn’t either."

NBC News: "Trump warns Nancy Pelosi to 'be careful' after Democrats signal they won't accept his shutdown offer" — "President Donald Trump lit into Democrats — and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in particular — in a Sunday tweetstorm in which he appeared to threaten to increase deportations of undocumented immigrants living in the United States and defended his proposal to end the partial government shutdown.

"That offer, which Trump presented Saturday in a White House address, included giving about 1 million immigrants a three-year protection from deportation in exchange for $5.7 billion in funding for a wall along the U.S. southern border. Those immigrants include 700,000 who were brought to the country illegally as children and remain protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and 300,000 who fled their countries and are facing the expiration of their "temporary protected status."

"While Republicans praised the proposal and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged to bring it before the full Senate for a vote this week, Democrats panned the deal because it did not ensure permanent protections for those two vulnerable populations and funded a border wall they say is unnecessary. Additionally, some on the far-right complained that the deal amounted to "amnesty" for those 1 million immigrants."

Here & Now: "How To Negotiate Out Of Shutdown Stalemate? 'Getting To Yes' Author Has Advice" — "What do you do when talks are going nowhere?

"Amid the weekslong government shutdown, William Ury, co-author of the book 'Getting to Yes,' a classic in the art and science of negotiations and diplomacy, has some advice for President Trump and Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress.

"Start with victory speeches — and then work backwards.

"'You write President Trump's victory speech in which he says to his base, "I won," and you write Nancy Pelosi's victory speech in which he says to her base, "I won," and then you work back from that and say, "OK, how do we arrive at a deal that has enough in it for both sides that ... we can get on with our business and the federal government can resume?" ' Ury, co-founder of Harvard University's program on negotiation, tells Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson."

The Hill: "A negotiated solution to the shutdown" — "Before the president’s Tuesday night address and the Democratic leaders' response, positions starkly diverged on the wall. President Trump said the government could be closed for 'months or even years,' and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 'we're not doing a wall.'

"Normal hard bargaining would transform the wall into some kind of physical barrier to be erected in key places; a compromise on money and other border security measures; and a reopened government.

"But these are not normal times. The wall is becoming a proxy for who’s right and wrong, who’s tougher, who will back down.

"We’re in danger of becoming mired in this single issue, win-lose negotiation. Neither party is being irrationally stubborn, given their bases and beliefs. But this single-issue structure is a trap."

U.S. News & World Report: "Advantage Pelosi in the Shutdown Negotiations" — "His deal-making resulted in Trump Tower and a host of hotels and casinos. Her arm-twisting and cajoling resulted in the Affordable Care Act, a major financial services reform law and a $787 billion economic stimulus package.

"Now, Donald Trump wants another structure – a wall on the southern border. Nancy Pelosi sees it as an "immoral" policy, and is holding her political ground against it. And it may be the battle of the two leaders' negotiating skills and styles that may determine whether America gets a wall and whether 800,000 federal employees start getting paychecks again.

"So far? Advantage, House Speaker Pelosi, say negotiations experts, noting Trump's mixed messages and an all-or-nothing approach that tends not to be effective in political negotiations.

"'There are very significant, and in many ways, game-changing differences between business negotiations and presidential negotiations,' says negotiations expert Marty Latz, author of the book 'The Reality of the Deal: An Eye-Opening Look at How Trump Really Negotiates.' 'Even assuming he was the greatest business negotiator in the world, it doesn't necessarily translate into being the greatest presidential negotiator in the world.' "

Stefano Kotsonis produced this show for broadcast.

This program aired on January 21, 2019.



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