Another American great has passed on, and with him one more staple of the era that once was.
Walter Mondale was many things; a Democrat, a state attorney general, a senator, a champion for desegregation, and a vice-president.
But above all, he was a gentleman and a delight to those who knew him and who had the privilege of meeting him.
I recall interviewing Walter Mondale years ago.
It was for a book I was working on about the 1980 presidential campaign.
He could not have been more delightful.
The former vice-president told me many astonishing things about his years in that office during Jimmy Carter’s tenure as our nation's 39th president.
One thing that sticks out was how Mondale was so opposed to the now infamous "Malaise" speech, he seriously considered resigning the vice-presidency.
It was not the way he believed a president should talk. But Mondale, the ever loyal Democrat and vice-president stayed on; such was the strength of Mondale’s character.
Mondale went on to suffer a historic defeat at the hands of Ronald Reagan in 1984. During this campaign, Reagan would deliver his famous zinger about not exploiting Mondale’s youth and inexperience during a debate, a line the affable Mondale took with the grace and good nature that defined him as a person.
Mondale also told me he was supposed to debate George H. W. Bush in 1980, but it was scotched by the Reagan campaign, who were mindful of Bush’s disastrous performance in Nashua earlier that year.
He told me how much he personally liked Reagan.
Mondale represented an earlier time, when both parties could compromise and there was not the hate and animosity that exists today.
Not just in the halls of Congress mind you; Mondale could even show courtesy and decency outside the battleground that is Washington.
That used to be the norm, but alas, the trenc- lines furrow so deeply now that in both parties, many members genuinely do not like their colleagues on the other side.
During the 1980 campaign, Mondale was telling Democratic audiences an off color joke at Reagan’s expense. Nancy Reagan was angered by the joke, so she sent word to Mondale that she was unhappy.
Mondale sent word back he would stop telling the joke.
True to his word as a gentleman, Mondale indeed never told the joke again.
Mondale also stood out for other reasons.
He was the first presidential candidate for president nominate a woman (then-Rep. Geraldine Ferraro, D-N.Y.) for a major party ticket, a huge step forward in American politics at the time. Mondale was also bluntly honest about practically everything, perhaps best immortalized by his straight-faced campaign promise to raise taxes when he ran against Reagan.
That declaration certainly didn’t help Mondale’s chances at winning the White House, but the man was nothing if not consistent.
Like any red-blooded conservative, I wouldn’t condone raising taxes, but I have to admire Walter Mondale for sticking to his principles and refusing to give ground just to win votes.
I am going to miss the first class character of Walter Mondale.
He represented a time when "compromise" was not a dirty word.
He was a reminder of an age when the two parties didn’t feel the need to always appease their respective bases.
He represented a bygone class of Washington insiders who actually believed in accomplishment and improving the country rather than using elected office solely for self-promotion.
Above all, he was someone who could make you smile and had the ability to shine on those who interacted with him, and America as a whole was fortunate to know him.
Godspeed Mr. Vice President.
Craig Shirley is a Ronald Reagan biographer, presidential historian, and four-time best-selling author. His most recent book is, ''Mary Ball Washington,'' a definitive biography of George Washington’s mother. Read Craig Shirley's Reports — More Here.
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