December 4th, 2012
10:24 PM ET

Compromise in Washington is harder than 20 years ago

Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell says in his day, the parties worked together despite opposing beliefs. He tells Anderson Cooper why reaching a fiscal cliff deal is much more of a challenge in 2012 than it would have been decades ago.

Although the issues and views from both sides haven't changed much, the difference is the personal relationships between members of the two sides."You didn't have the total polarization that you have today," says Mitchell.

After he was chosen as majority leader, Mitchell's first priority was reaching out to Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole. He recounts to Anderson the conversation that would set the tone for their working relationship. Mitchell told Dole, "If we don't have some degree of trust between us, it will be an impossible job," and he promised never to surprise him and never to try to embarrass him.

And in the six years they worked together, no harsh words were exchanged. "We debated vigorously on the floor of the Senate, but it was not personal," says Mitchell.

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Filed under: Congress • Economy • Fiscal Cliff • President Obama • Taxes
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