BILOXI, Miss. (AP) — Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott says one problem in Washington now is that "leaders can't find a way to lead."
During an appearance Tuesday in Biloxi, Lott said the government shutdown that started Oct. 1 isn't hurting the economy yet, but it's not helping, either.
The Mississippi Republican was Senate majority whip during a 21-day government shutdown in 1995. He said he opposed that one from the beginning, but he and other leaders sat down and talked to each other and to the president.
"When I was Senate majority leader and Bill Clinton was president, we met all the time," Lott said. "Did we have a nice easy time? No. We had a lot of disagreements, but we found a way to reach an agreement we thought was good for the country."
He said President Barack Obama "needs to engage" with current congressional leaders.
Lott, who lived in Pascagoula, was elected to the U.S. House from south Mississippi in 1972. He won one of Mississippi's two Senate seats in 1988 and became majority leader in 1996. He retired from the Senate in late 2007.
"When I went into the Senate I was a young, warrior-type guy, I raised a lot of Cain and got nothing done," Lott said.
He said he decided to change his approach.
"I spent six months keeping my mouth shut and learning the institution," he said. "Six-and-a-half years later, I was the majority leader."
Lott spoke Tuesday in Biloxi at a meeting of the Southern States Energy Board. He works for the Washington lobbying firm Patton Boggs.