Former Vice-President, 1984 Dem Presidential Nominee – Deadline

Walter Mondale, who transformed the role of vice president during the one-term presidency of Jimmy Carter, yet suffered a crushing political defeat as a Democratic candidate against incumbent Ronald Reagan in 1984, has died. He was 93 years old.

Mondale, often nicknamed “Fritz,” died Monday in Minneapolis, his family said in a statement. No cause of death was given.

“Today, I mourn the passing of my dear friend Walter Mondale, whom I consider to be the best vice president in the history of our country,” Carter said in a statement. “During our administration, Fritz used his political skills and personal integrity to transform the vice presidency into a dynamic, political force that had never been seen before and that still exists today.”

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President Joe Biden said he and his wife, Jill, spoke to Mondale and his family over the weekend.

“In accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, he described the values ​​he was taught to live: ‘play by the rules; tell the truth; obey the law; take care of others; love our country; cherish our faith, ”Biden said in a statement. “As a senator, ambassador, vice-president and presidential candidate, he lived and disseminated these values.”

Illustrating an Upper Midwestern modesty and Norwegian good humor, Mondale was nonetheless part of the powerful and prominent group of Minnesota politicians on the national stage in the 1960s and 1970s, which also included fellow Senators Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy.

Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale at the 1976 Democratic National Convention in New York City

In 1976, Democratic presidential candidate Carter hired Mondale, then in his second term as US senator, to be his running mate against incumbent President Gerald Ford. His selection was more of a geographic counterweight to Carter, a native of Georgia, than an ideological one. Both were considered centrists and of the same generation.

The ticket beat Ford – who had taken office after Richard Nixon’s resignation in August 1974 – and his running mate, Bob Dole, and took office with the promise of restoring the truth and integrity to politics after Watergate .

Mondale created a very different vice president role than many of his predecessors, who were generally marginalized and excluded from the inner circle of the Commander-in-Chief.

About a month after the election, Mondale wrote a note to Carter in which he said that the vice president had generally “played a role characterized by ambiguity, disappointment, even antagonism.” Mondale only needed to look to the experience of Humphrey, his political mentor, for his experience as vice president during Lyndon Johnson’s presidency.

What Mondale proposed was a “general counsel” role, with access to intelligence briefings, attendance at key meetings, and regular weekly meetings with the President, among others. He also introduced the role of the Vice President as a convenience store, taking charge of investigative projects and helping to resolve disputes between departments of the executive. Carter embraced the idea and even gave Mondale an office in the West Wing, establishing the relationship VPs have had since then during administrations.

But Carter quickly clashed with the realities of Washington, as his administration broke with Congress, even with its sizable Democratic majorities. Carter’s signature foreign policy success – a peace deal between Israel and Egypt – has been overshadowed by the hostage crisis in Iran. In 1980, Carter faced a challenge from Edward Kennedy’s left, creating a serious wedge in the party, as Republicans rallied around charismatic ex-actor and former California Governor Ronald Reagan. Carter also faced a booming economy, producing what has been called stagflation, or a period of low growth but rising prices.

After Carter’s loss that fall, Mondale quickly emerged as a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in the next presidential election in 1984.

Then Mondale faced a formidable field of primary rivals including John Glenn and Jesse Jackson, but his most serious challenge came from Gary Hart, a relatively new face who presented himself as a forward-thinking candidate for news. ideas. He won a stunning reversal in the New Hampshire primary, but Mondale, backed by much of the party establishment, survived the challenge. He revived his fortune in part by using Wendy’s fast food chain slogan to attack Hart’s lack of political specifics: “Where’s the beef?”

Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro wave to the crowd at the 1984 Democratic National Convention as challengers Jesse Jackson and Gary Hart look on.
Everett Collection

Faced with a November race against a popular president, Mondale decided to make history with her choice of a running mate: Geraldine Ferraro, then sitting in the House of Representatives, the first woman to be on a big party ticket .

But Mondale and Ferraro struggled to squeeze Reagan’s ballot head, as the incumbent president’s campaign featured a sunny vision dubbed “Morning in America,” while Mondale focused on the growing deficit, the nuclear arms race and, during the Democratic convention, the need to increase taxes. “Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won’t tell you. I just did,” Mondale said in the most quoted line of his acceptance speech.

Mondale was defeated in the election, winning only the state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia, in what was the worst loss ever for a Democratic presidential candidate.

“He was selling ‘Morning in America’ and I was selling a root canal,” Mondale later wrote in her memoir.

He told the Star Tribune in 2019 that after the loss, “I had a stack of books next to my bed, and I sometimes read through the night because I couldn’t sleep. And Joan was getting mad at me, and I was like, “You know, I think that’s the best way to do it. Then finally I only read half the night, then a third of the night. But it took me a while to be normal. I mean, it hurts.

Decades later, however, he highlighted Ferraro’s choice as one of his legacies, helping to pave the way for other female candidates to run for national elections.

Mondale then retired from elected politics, joining a Minneapolis law firm while serving on boards of directors and nonprofit. He returned to government service in 1993, when President Bill Clinton selected him as US Ambassador to Japan.

Walter Mondale with Barbara Walters, who did an ABC interview with him in 1978
Everett Collection

He sometimes considered trying a return to the Senate, taking a page from Humphrey, who was re-elected to the Senate after his tenure as vice-president. After Senator Paul Wellstone was killed in a plane crash in 2002, just weeks before the election, Mondale agreed to run for his seat. But he narrowly lost to Norm Coleman, the mayor of Saint-Paul.

Mondale was born on January 5, 1928 in the small community of Elmore, in southern Minnesota. After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a political science degree, he served in the United States Army for two years. He then obtained a law degree from the U of M and then entered private practice.

During this time he began working on political campaigns, including that of Minnesota Governor Orville Freeman, who in 1960 appointed him state attorney general. Four years later, Mondale was nominated to fill the seat left vacant by Humphrey when he became vice chairman of Lyndon Johnson and was elected to the seat in 1966. He easily defeated his opponent for re-election in 1972 in a otherwise frantic year in the presidential election. race, as Nixon won the state, the last Republican to do so.

Mondale’s family said one of his proudest accomplishments was as a leader in efforts to pass the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

“We are grateful that he has had the opportunity to see the emergence of another generation of civil rights over the past few months,” said his family, referring to the national conversation that followed George’s death. Floyd in Mondale’s hometown.

Almost 37 years after Mondale chose Ferraro as her running race, Kamala Harris was inaugurated as the first female vice president. In a statement, Harris said he spoke to Mondale a few days ago and thanked him “for his service and consistency.” Of his selection of Ferraro, Harris said, “With this appointment, Vice President Mondale has opened ‘a new door to the future’, to borrow his words.”

Mondale is survived by two sons, Ted, a former state senator, and William Hall, a lawyer, and six grandchildren. Mondale’s daughter, TV personality and conference host Eleanor Mondale, died of brain cancer in 2011. His wife, 58, Joan Mondale, an arts activist, died in 2014.

In his 90s, Mondale went on to work at a downtown Minneapolis law firm and keep an active schedule, serving as a sort of senior statesman and mentor to current politicians. In 2018, he attended Tina Smith’s swearing-in ceremony when she was nominated to take the Senate seat from Al Franken, and he endorsed the other state senator, Amy Klobuchar, when she ran for president in 2020.

After he and Carter were defeated in 1980, Mondale, as president of the Senate, presided over the electoral vote count in Congress.

Smiling, Mondale said, “Walter F. Mondale from the state of Minnesota received 49 votes.” To his good humor, the room erupted into applause and gave him a standing ovation.

“A landslide. I did it,” Mondale joked.

Mondale’s vice-presidency was only one term, but he described the legacy of the Carter administration this way: “We spoke the truth, we obeyed the law, and we kept the peace.”

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