"We know that America must have a strong defense . . .
"We know that a healthy, growing private economy is the key to the future . . .
"No defense cuts that weaken our security; no business taxes that weaken our economy; no laundry lists that raid our Treasury . . .
"We must cut spending and pay as we go. If you [the Congress} don’t hold the line, I will: That’s what the veto is for . . .
Parents must turn off that television; students must do their homework; teachers must teach; and America compete . . . let’s get with it in America again."
I could vote and campaign for someone like that.
Those were just some of the words of late U.S. Vice President Walter F. "Fritz" Mondale accepting the presidential nomination at the 1984 Democratic National Convention.
We were on opposite sides of the political aisle, but Walter Mondale was an "old school” Democrat who loved America and believed in a strong national defense to keep us free.
His passing last week at the age of 93 reminds us that America needs Harry Truman Democrats again.
Mondale was the son of a Methodist preacher who grew up in rural Minnesota farm country. He had a love for the American farmer and worker.
He warned us early about our best jobs going overseas, foreign nations pushing America around and closing their markets to us and the need to stand up for American workers, businesses and farmers in global trade.
An Army veteran who served in the enlisted ranks during the Korean War, Mondale was a patriot who loved America.
Following his years in the vice-presidency, he would later serve as U.S. ambassador to Japan where he gained an even greater appreciation and understanding of the North Korean threat.
A decade later in 2006, Mondale, concerned over the growing nuclear and ballistic missile threats posed by North Korea, chastised the George W. Bush administration for not being tough enough on the "Hermit Kingdom."
This writer actually went on Fox News with Neil Cavuto at the time to say that the former vice president was spot on and that the Bush administration should heed his warning and follow his advice.
Walter Mondale was proud of his Norwegian heritage and I got to know him when I served on the board of the Norwegian-American Foundation.
His paternal grandparents came from the Mundal Valley in southwestern Norway and in 2007 he was named Norway’s honorary consul general for Minnesota, something he thoroughly enjoyed.
We were both heavily involved in Norway’s centennial celebration of its independence from Sweden and attended the unveiling of Crown Princess Martha’s statue at the Norwegian Embassy in 2005.
Crown Princess Martha was a heroic figure who took her young children, including Norway’s current King Harald, and fled the Nazis and came to the United States during the war years.
Her story is now the subject of "Masterpiece" (PBS) "Atlantic Crossing," a program currently aired. At the event, the sight of seeing King Harald with his siblings standing and singing the "Star-Spangled Banner," with their hands over their hearts, is something I’ll never forget.
Fritz Mondale had a sense of humor and I was fortunate to get a glimpse of it.
He knew I was from South Carolina and buddies with his 1984 southern campaign manager, the late Jim Quackenbush. The vice president asked me, "Van, when are you going to see or talk to Jim next?"
I told him probably next week or so.
He said, "Good, you tell him I want it extra crispy and he’ll know what that means."
When I told Jim, he cracked up and said, "He never ate fried chicken in his life until he ran for vice president in 1976!"
Jim went on to tell me that Mondale loved it and couldn’t get enough of it.
He then told me that during the 1984 presidential campaign, all the handlers and image consultants had people watching him and told everyone in the campaign not to let him eat any fried chicken because they didn’t want him to gain weight.
But Mondale had a way around them all. He would send Jim out on late night runs to Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), and yes, he wanted it "extra crispy."
Walter Mondale was a decent man and a class act.
Commenting on President Ronald Reagan, who he lost the presidency to in 1984, he said:
"I told somebody afterwards that I think I would have voted for Reagan if I weren’t running, because he is a nice guy. He never was mean to me. I was never mean to him, and look at that campaign. It was a pleasant year, I think, for Americans. I think we ended up a united country, ands so I could see why the average American liked the guy. They thought he was stable and good."
Yes, America sure could use a few Harry Truman Democrats like Walter Mondale again. And those on both sides of the aisle and in both parties could learn by his example.
May you rest in peace Mr. Vice President.
Van Hipp is Chairman of American Defense International, Inc. He is the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Army and author of “The New Terrorism: How to Fight It and Defeat It.” He is the 2018 recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II September 11 Garden Leadership Award for National Security. Read Van Hipp's Reports — More Here.
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