RIP Walter Mondale: Former US Vice President dies at 93

Former vice president Walter Mondale Credit: AP

Walter Mondale, a leading liberal Democratic voice in the late twentieth century who served as US vice president under Jimmy Carter and lost the 1984 presidential election to Ronald Reagan in a historic landslide, died on Monday at the age of 93, according to his family.

In a statement, the family said, "It is with deep sorrow that we share the news that our beloved dad passed away today in Minneapolis, Minnesota."

During President Jimmy Carter's troubled one-term presidency from 1977 to 1981, Mr. Mondale, the first major US party presidential candidate to choose a woman running mate, believed in an activist government and advocated for civil rights, school integration, consumer welfare, farm, and labor interests as a US senator and vice president.

From 1993 to 1996, he was the US ambassador to Japan under Bill Clinton.

Mr. Mondale, also known as "Fritz," was the Democratic candidate in 1984, running against Ronald Reagan, a successful incumbent Republican who had defeated Jimmy Carter four years before. He chose Geraldine Ferraro, a New York Democratic US congresswoman, as his vice-presidential running mate.

Mr. Mondale, on the other hand, suffered one of the most humiliating losses in a US presidential election, losing in 49 of the 50 states and winning only his home state of Minnesota and Washington, D.C.

It was the first of two occasions that a crippling loss forced Mr. Mondale to step down from politics.

After Senator Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash 11 days before the 2002 election, mourning Minnesota Democrats begged Mr. Mondale, then 74, to run for the Senate. Mr. Mondale lost by a razor-thin margin to Republican Norm Coleman, who painted him as a graying relic of a bygone age.

During his campaign against Ronald Reagan, Mr. Mondale vowed to increase taxes on the American people, a pledge that did nothing to benefit his campaign.

"I'm serious about my work. I intend to eliminate the Reagan budget deficit by two-thirds by the end of my first term "Mr. Mondale said during his acceptance speech for the Democratic presidential nomination in San Francisco in 1984. "Let's say it as it is. It has to be done, it has to be done, it has to be done, it has to be done, it has to Mr. Reagan, like me, would increase taxes. He's not going to tell you anything. That's exactly what I did."

His campaign was sunk as a result of the remark. He had no regrets, even years later. In 2004, he told PBS, "I'm very happy I did it." "It's something I'm proud of, and I thought I was telling the truth."

Earlier that year, during a primary debate, Mr. Mondale made a memorable political remark when he asked: "Where's the beef?" in an attempt to portray Gary Hart, a candidate for his party's presidential nomination, as all style and no substance.

Mr. Hart's campaign was harmed by the line, which was taken from a famous humorous hamburger ad at the time.

Mr. Mondale was a protégé of fellow Minnesota liberal Hubert Humphrey, a senator and vice president who was defeated by Republican Richard Nixon in the 1968 presidential election.

Mr. Mondale was a senator from 1964 until 1976 when he was elected vice president in Jimmy Carter's victory over incumbent Republican Gerald Ford, who had taken over as president after Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 due to the Watergate scandal.

Mr. Mondale grew into a more involved vice president than many of his predecessors. He was instrumental in mending the strained relationship between President Jimmy Carter's White House and the Democratic-controlled Congress.

He didn't always agree with Mr. Carter, such as when he secretly opposed Mr. Carter's preachy 1979 speech in which the president told Americans suffering from a poor economy that they were experiencing a "crisis of confidence." Over the speech, Mr. Mondale considered resigning.

As he struggled with a hostage crisis in Iran, a Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and difficult economic times at home, Mr. Carter came across as a poor president.

In 1980, Mr. Reagan and his running mate, George H.W. Bush, defeated the Carter-Mondale ticket. In 1984, Mr. Mondale, who was still synonymous with Mr. Carter in the minds of voters, faced the difficult task of defeating a famous incumbent during a period of economic prosperity.

Americans had a simple choice between liberal and conservative candidates and doctrines in the election between Mr. Mondale and Mr. Reagan.

In their first debate, Mr. Mondale emerged victorious, with the older Mr. Reagan appearing out of step and unsure to others.

In the second debate, Mr. Reagan regained his composure. With his answer to a query about whether he was too old to pursue four more years as president at the age of 73, he allayed questions about his age.

"I'm not going to make age a factor in this campaign. I'm not going to use my opponent's youth and inexperience for political gain "Mr. Reagan cracked a joke, eliciting laughter from the crowd and even Mr. Mondale during the debate.

Mr. Mondale later said, "I believe the people decided to vote for Reagan." After the second debate, he said that "I had almost given up hope that the initiative would succeed. That was the case."

Mr. Mondale's defeat, along with that of fellow liberal Michael Dukakis in 1988, enabled more centrist Democrats like Bill Clinton to assert themselves within the party.

During a campaign stop in 2008, Hillary Clinton was joined by former US Vice President Walter Mondale. AFP/Getty Images

As Mr. Mondale's running mate, Ms. Ferraro was a historic decision. Another woman would not be chosen as a presidential running mate until 2008 when Republican John McCain chose Sarah Palin. Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, became the first woman to be nominated for president by a major political party in 2016.

As Joe Biden's running mate in last November's election, Democrat Kamala Harris became the first woman elected as vice president of the United States.

After leaving politics in 1984, Mr. Mondale returned to Minneapolis to practice law. During President Bill Clinton's presidency, he returned to public service as Ambassador to Japan.

Walter Frederick Mondale was born on January 5, 1928, in Ceylon, Minnesota, the sixth of seven brothers. His mother was a music teacher and his father was a Methodist minister.

Minnesota was dominated by farming and mining, and it had a liberal, populist political culture, thanks to the presence of many Scandinavian-Americans, such as the Norwegian Mondale's.

He received a law degree from the University of Minnesota after serving in the US Army. His political career began when he worked on Mr. Humphrey's re-election campaign as mayor of Minneapolis.

Mr. Mondale replaced Humphrey in the Senate when he became vice president in 1964, arriving in Washington during Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson's "Great Society," a period of great hope and enthusiasm for liberals, though their optimism was shattered by the Vietnam War.

In 1955, Mr. Mondale married Joan. In 2014, she passed away. They were the parents of three children.

Publish : 2021-04-20 09:19:00

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