I had a long chuckle the other night at the news that George Mitchell had been enlisted as the mediator in the dispute between the Minnesota Orchestra and its musicians. It was partly a reflection of how far Mitchell has fallen over the years - from attempting to broker a peace settlement in the Middle East to investigating PEDs in baseball to mediating a mid-level orchestra lockout. After he's done with this, I'd like to see if he's available to talk to our upstairs neighbors about not walking so heavily late at night.
Seriously - and I guess we're supposed to take this seriously - I'm most amused by how Mitchell is held in such awe by everyone commenting on the situation. We'll grant at the outset that he deserves credit for his efforts to broker a peace agreement in Northern Ireland. His efforts on the "Good Friday Agreement" were noble, and successful. But it would be a mistake to view his entire career through that one event.
As a U.S. Senator, Mitchell was - in my opinion - a partisan hack. He was in fact my U.S. Senator for the four years I lived in Maine, and I'm not sure I agreed with him once. And he was partisan - the opposite of the statesman that his supports like to portray. Mind you, there's nothing wrong with being partisan; Mitchell was, after all, Senate Majority Leader. But let's not try to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse.
Mitchell's "even-handed" approach in the Middle East was a disaster, quite possibly because the Palestinians didn't want an agreement that would work for everyone - they wanted something that would work for them. One of the chief problems with negotiating a Middle East agreement is that the two sides aren't in search of the same thing: Israel looks for an agreement that acknowledges its right to exist, while the Palestinians - to the extent that their factions are even on the same page - seem more interested in wiping Israel off the map, not reaching an agreement for co-existance. As one commentator put it, it was Mitchell's success in Northern Ireland that ultimately led to his downfall in the Middle East - by assuming he could broker a deal because he'd already done it before, he not only naively assumed that both sides wanted the same thing, that even-handed approach actually resulted in a further Palestinian intransegence that made the agreement all but impossible.
As for his involvement with Major League Baseball, reviews on the Mitchell Report were mixed at best - nobody named in the report was convicted of much of anything (save a minor charge against Barry Bonds), and Roger Clemens was actually acquitted (although his charges were a result of his testimony before Congress, he was prominently named in the Report). Oh, and then there was that conflict of interest thing - Mitchell was on the board of directors of the Boston Red Sox, and as it happens no active members of the Red Sox were named in the report.
So, what should we anticipate from his turn as mediator? I don't know. What I do know is that this whole farce has increased my admiration for The Onion by leaps and bounds. After all, it shows how hard it is to write satire nowadays when the whole world's stealing your punchlines. ◙