Walter Mondale

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Walter Mondale
Walter Mondale

In office
January 20, 1977 – January 20, 1981
President Jimmy Carter
Preceded by Nelson Rockefeller
Succeeded by George H. W. Bush

Born January 5, 1928 (age 79)
Ceylon, Minnesota
Political party Democratic
Spouse Joan Adams

Walter Frederick "Fritz" Mondale (born January 5, 1928) is an American politician and member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (largely established by former Vice President Hubert Humphrey). He was the 42nd Vice President of the United States (1977 – 1981) under President Jimmy Carter. He was also a two-term United States Senator from Minnesota and the Democratic Party nominee for president in 1984 against the incumbent, Republican Ronald Reagan. Reagan was re-elected in a landslide victory in which Mondale carried only his home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia.

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[edit] Early life

Walter Frederick ("Fritz") Mondale was born on January 5, 1928, in Ceylon, Minnesota, the son of Theodore Sigvaard Mondale, a Methodist minister, and elementary school teacher Claribel Cowan Mondale. He spent his boyhood in the small towns of southern Minnesota, where he attended public schools. His half-brother was the Unitarian minister Lester Mondale. He was educated at Macalester College in St. Paul and the University of Minnesota, where he earned his B.A. in Political Science, graduating in 1951. Mondale didn't have the money for law school, so he enlisted in the U.S. Army in part to take advantage of the G.I. Bill. He then served for two years at Fort Knox, as a corporal in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1956, having also served on the law review and as a law clerk in the Minnesota Supreme Court under Justice Martin A. Nelson. He began to practice law in Minneapolis, and continued to do so for four years before entering the political arena.

[edit] Entry into politics and U.S. Senator

Mondale has been involved in national politics since the 1940s. At 20 years old, he was already making a name in Minnesota politics by helping organize Hubert Humphrey's successful Senate campaign in 1948.

Minnesota Governor Orville Freeman appointed Mondale to the state's Attorney General in 1960, to fill the vacancy left by Miles Lord, who was appointed to the U.S. Attorney General's office. Mondale had just successfully managed Freeman's gubernatorial campaign. Mondale was just 32, and only four years out of law school, when he became attorney general of Minnesota. He spent two terms as attorney general. He also served as a member of the President’s Consumer Advisory Council from 1960 to 1964.

On December 30, 1964, Mondale was appointed by Minnesota Governor Karl Rolvaag to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by Hubert Humphrey's resignation after being elected Vice President of the United States.

In 1966, Mondale defeated Republican candidate Robert A. Forsythe, 53.9% to 45.2%. In 1972, George McGovern offered him an opportunity to be his running mate, which Mondale declined. Instead, the voters of Minnesota returned Mondale to the Senate again in 1972 with over 57% of the vote.

During his years as a senator, Mondale served on the Finance Committee, the Labor and Public Welfare Committee, Budget Committee, and the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. He also served as chairman of the Select Committee on Equal Education Opportunity and as chairman of the Intelligence Committee's Domestic Task Force. He additionally served as chairman of the Labor and Public Welfare Committee's subcommittee on Children and Youth, as well as chairman of the Senate subcommittee on social security financing.[1] As a Senator, Mondale enjoyed public renown for his role in the investigation of the Apollo 1 fire on January 27, 1967. He served in the 88th, 89th, 90th, 91st, 92nd, 93rd, and 94th congresses.

[edit] Vice President

When Jimmy Carter won the Democratic nomination for president in 1976, he chose Mondale as his running mate. The ticket was elected on November 2, 1976, and Mondale was inaugurated as Vice President of the United States on 20 January 1977. He became the fourth vice president in four years.

He was the first vice president to reside at the official vice presidential residence, Number One Observatory Circle.

Under Carter, Mondale traveled extensively throughout the nation and the world advocating the administration's foreign policy. Mondale was the first vice president to have an office in the White House, and established the concept of "activist Vice President." He expanded the vice president's role from that of figurehead to presidential adviser, full-time participant, and troubleshooter for the administration. Subsequent vice presidents have followed this model in the administrations in which they serve. Mondale established the tradition of weekly lunches with the president, which continues to this day.

Carter and Mondale were renominated at the 1980 Democratic National Convention, but lost to Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. That same year, Mondale opened the XIII Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid, New York (Ronald Reagan was the first president to open the Olympic Games in the U.S., held in Los Angeles in 1984).


Further information: U.S. presidential election, 1976  and U.S. presidential election, 1980

[edit] Presidential nominee of 1984

After losing the 1980 election, he returned briefly to the practice of law at Winston and Strawn, a large Chicago-based law firm. Mondale contested the Democratic presidential nomination in the 1984 election. He was the frontrunner in the race, facing competition from Rev. Jesse Jackson and Senator Gary Hart of Colorado. Jackson's support dried up after he made an off-the-record reference to Jews as "Hymies" and New York City as "Hymietown." Mondale used the Wendy's slogan "Where's the beef?" to describe Hart's policies as lacking depth. Mondale clinched the nomination with the majority of delegates on the first ballot.

When he made his acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention, Mondale said: "By the end of my first term, I will reduce the Reagan budget deficit by two-thirds. Let's tell the truth. It must be done, it must be done. Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won't tell you. I just did."[2] While this was meant to show that Mondale would be honest with voters, it was largely interpreted as a campaign pledge to raise taxes which was unappealing to some voters. In 1986, Reagan did sign into law a bill that raised taxes for corporations and flattened the tax rates for individual taxpayers, effectively lowering taxes for higher-income Americans.

At the Democratic Convention, Mondale chose U.S. Representative Geraldine A. Ferraro of New York as his running mate, making her the first woman nominated for that position by a major party. Aides later said that Mondale was determined to establish a precedent with his vice presidential candidate, considering San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein, also a female, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, an African American, and San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros, a Hispanic, as other finalists for the nomination.[3] Others however preferred Senator Lloyd Bentsen because he would appeal to the Deep South, or even nomination rival Gary Hart who was expected to perform ten points better than Mondale in a hypothetical matchup with President Reagan. Ferraro, as a Catholic, came under fire from the Roman Catholic Church for being pro-choice, which contradicts the Church's dogma. Further controversy erupted over her changing positions regarding the release of her husband's tax returns.

Mondale ran a liberal campaign, supporting a nuclear freeze and the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). He spoke against what he considered to be unfairness in Reagan's economic policies and the need to reduce federal budget deficits. However, he was going up against a popular incumbent and his campaign was widely considered ineffective. Also, he was perceived as supporting the poor at the expense of the middle class. Southern whites and northern blue collar workers who usually voted Democrat switched their support to Reagan because they credited him with the economic boom and saw him as strong on national security issues.

In the first televised debate, Mondale put in an unexpectedly strong performance, questioning Reagan's age and capacity to endure the grueling demands of the presidency (Reagan was the oldest person to serve as President). However, in the next debate on October 21, 1984, Reagan effectively neutralized the issue by quipping, "I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience."

In the election, Mondale was defeated in a landslide, winning only the District of Columbia (which had never been won by a Republican candidate) and his home state of Minnesota (by a mere 3,761 votes[4]), thus securing only 13 electoral votes to Reagan's 525. The result was the worst electoral defeat for any Democratic Party candidate in history, and the worst for any major-party candidate since Alf Landon's loss to Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936.

Mondale won 37,577,352 votes - a total of 40.6% of the popular vote in the election. Mondale came in 40% or over in California, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

[edit] Private citizen and ambassador

Following the election, Mondale returned again to private law practice, with Dorsey & Whitney in Minnesota in 1987. From 1986 to 1993, Mondale was chairman of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.

Under the presidency of Bill Clinton, he was U.S. Ambassador to Japan from 1993 to 1996, chaired a bipartisan group to study campaign finance reform, and was Clinton's special envoy to Indonesia in 1998.

Until his appointment as U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Mondale was a Distinguished University Fellow in Law and Public Affairs at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, at the University of Minnesota. In 1990, Mondale established the Mondale Policy Forum at the Humphrey Institute. The forum has brought together leading scholars and policymakers for annual conferences on domestic and international issues. He also served on non-profit boards of directors for the Guthrie Theatre Foundation, Mayo Foundation, National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, Diogenes Institute of Higher Learning, Prince Hall Masonic Temple, RAND Corporation and the University of Minnesota Foundation. His corporate board memberships included BlackRock Advantage Term Trust and other BlackRock Mutual Funds, Cargill Incorporated, CNA Financial Corporation, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, First Financial Fund and other Prudential Mutual Funds, Northwest Airlines and United HealthCare Corporation.

[edit] 2002 Senate election

Mondale in the Senate election debate with Norm Coleman in 2002.
Mondale in the Senate election debate with Norm Coleman in 2002.

In 2002, Democratic US Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, who was running for re-election, died in a plane crash just 11 days before the November 5 election. Mondale at age 74 replaced Wellstone on the ballot, at the urging of Wellstone's relatives. (This Senate seat was the one that Mondale himself had held, prior to resigning in order to become Vice President in 1977.)

During their only debate, Mondale came out swinging against the Republican nominee, Norm Coleman. Mondale emphasized his own experience in foreign affairs while painting Coleman as a finger-in-the-wind opportunist. "We've seen you shift around, Norman," Mondale intoned, alluding to Coleman's past as an anti-war college activist and, more recently, as a faithless Democrat who had shifted party allegiances while serving as mayor of St. Paul.

Mondale narrowly lost the election, finishing with 1,067,246 votes (47.34%) to Coleman's 1,116,697 (49.53%) out of 2,254,639 votes cast. Assessments of the race pointed to several factors: the nation's preoccupation with national security, increased impact of the voting in wealthy suburban districts, and the fact that Mondale, though a former Vice President, was an unknown quantity with younger voters.

The election was also marked by the controversy surrounding Senator Wellstone's funeral, which some critics, including former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, considered over-politicized.

Upon conceding defeat, Mondale modestly stated: "At the end of what will be my last campaign, I want to say to Minnesota, you always treated me well, you always listened to me."[5]

[edit] Family

His wife, Joan (fmr. Adams of Eugene, Oregon), is a national advocate for the arts and was the Honorary Chairman of the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities during the Carter Administration.

The Mondales' oldest son, Theodore A. "Ted" Mondale, is an entrepreneur and the CEO of Nazca Solutions, a technology fulfillment venture. He and his wife, Pam, are the parents of three children. He is also a former Minnesota state senator. In 1998, Mondale sought the Democratic primary nomination for Minnesota governor. The race included three other candidates from families famously connected in Minnesota politics: Skip Humphrey, the son of the late Vice President Hubert Humphrey (then Attorney General); Mark Dayton of the Dayton Department Store dynasty (then State Auditor); and Mike Freeman, son of former governor Orville Freeman (then Hennepin County, Minnesota district attorney). Mondale, a fiscal moderate who had distanced himself from labor, did not prevail in the primary.

Later, in 1999, he was appointed as chairman of the Metropolitan Council by Governor Jesse Ventura. He oversaw the initiation of high density housing/retail development in the Twin Cities, as well as light-rail transportation planning from the suburban areas to the central cities.

The Mondales' daughter, Eleanor, is a television personality, who began her television career at a Minneapolis local television affiliate, then reporting for the E! Online cable channel and eventually the CBS show "This Morning." She has also had small roles in a few movies and TV shows. Ms. Mondale has been battling brain cancer since 2005, but as of summer, 2006, the cancer is in remission. Ms. Mondale is currently co-host of WCCO Radio's midday show with Susie Jones, following the retirement of Pat Miles.

Mondale's youngest son, William H. Mondale, is an attorney and a former Assistant Attorney General for the State of Minnesota from 1990 to 2000. He is currently the Director of International Business Development for Petters Consumer Brands LLC in Minnetonka, Minnesota.

Walter Mondale continues to maintain a residence near Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis, where he can frequently be seen walking his dogs. Mondale is known as a down-to-earth, friendly neighbor and an avid fan of the British comedy troupe Monty Python.

[edit] Published works

Twelve Years and Thirteen Days: Remembering Paul and Sheila Wellstone, co-written with Terry Gydesen, was published in 2003; Crisis and Opportunity in a Changing Japan, co-written with William Regis Farrell, was published in 1999; and The Accountability of Power: Toward a Responsible Presidency, was written in 1976.

[edit] Norwegian ancestry

Mondale has always maintained strong ties to his ancestral Norway. His family surname was originally Mundal and it originated in Mundal, Fjærland, Norway.[6] Coincidentally, when he entered the Senate in 1964 he took over the seat of vice president Hubert Humphrey, another Norwegian-American. In later years Mondale has served on the executive committee of the Peace Prize Forum, an annual conference co-sponsored by the Norwegian Nobel Institute and five Midwestern colleges of Norwegian heritage. In connection with Norway's Centennial Celebration in 2005, he chaired the committee to promote and develop cultural activities between Norway and Norwegian-American organizations. During the 1984 Presidential election he was even nicknamed "Norwegian wood", a play on the Beatles song, his ancestry and his appearance.

While he was in office, Twin Cities Public Television produced a documentary about him entitled "Walter Mondale: There's a Fjord in Your Past," a play on the well-known advertising slogan, "There's a Ford in Your Future."

[edit] Trivia

Walter F. Mondale Hall
Walter F. Mondale Hall
  • Former President Jimmy Carter and former Vice President Walter Mondale hold the record for the longest-living post-White House president and vice president in American history. They passed the record established by President John Adams and his vice-president Thomas Jefferson. As of May 23, 2006, Carter and Mondale have lived 25 years, 123 days since leaving office in 1981. That is a day longer than Adams and Jefferson (who both died on the same day, July 4, 1826).
  • Of all the surviving former Vice Presidents, Mondale and Al Gore are the only Democrats. Remarkably, they were both their party's nominee for the presidency although each had a different experience of attempting to win the White House from the other. Mondale had already been out of the vice presidency when he was nominated in 1984. Gore, in contrast, was still Vice President when he was nominated in 2000; although he won the popular vote, he narrowly lost the Electoral College.
  • Shortly after Mondale used the Wendy's advertising slogan "Where's the beef?", Wendy's pulled the commercial off the air over concerns that the public might perceive it was supporting one candidate over another.

[edit] Walter Mondale in popular culture

  • In the HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, Mondale was played by John Slattery.
  • Walter Mondale is mentioned in quotes in Bart vs. Australia (the US Navy's fictional laundry ship, the U.S.S. Walter Mondale), Lisa's First Word and Mr. Spritz Goes to Washington episodes of The Simpsons. In Matt Groening's other series, Futurama, Amy Wong whispers in a 20th Century History lecture, "Boring. Let's hear about Walter Mondale already."
  • In the TV series Beverly Hills 90210, lead character and Minnesota native Brandon Walsh owned a car he named "Mondale."
  • In 1998, comedian Dennis Miller depicted Mondale in an American Express commercial. Miller's quote: "Hey, do you know me? I ran for president in 1984. I got stomped like a narc at a biker rally."
  • Jello Biafra jokingly suggests "Mondale" as the name for a heavy metal band on his 1987 spoken-word album, No More Cocoons.
  • In the American Dad episode "The Best Christmas Story Never," Stan is taken back in time to the 1970s and alters the future so that John Hinckley, Jr. never attempts to assassinate Ronald Reagan. No longer appearing so strong to the public, Reagan loses the 1984 election and Mondale becomes President of the United States, surrendering the country to the Soviet Union 47 days into his presidency.
  • In the fourth season of The O.C. Mondale is credited (along with his running mate Geraldine Ferraro) with uniting Sandy and Kirsten Cohen at Berkeley. Sandy's pessimistic pick up line: "Come and let me tell you why Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro are going to lose the election."
  • In the TV Series, Commander-In-Chief starring Geena Davis, Speaker of the House, Nathan Templeton, berates President Teddy Bridges, by telling him that Vice President Allen's Vice Presidency was making "Walter Mondale's...look active"

[edit] Electoral history

2002 Minnesota United States Senatorial Election

Norm Coleman (R) 49.53%
Walter Mondale (D) 47.34%


1984 United States Presidential Election

Ronald Reagan (R) (inc.) 58.8%
Walter Mondale (D) 40.5%


1972 Minnesota United States Senatorial Election

Walter Mondale (D) (inc.) 56.7%
Phil Hansen (R) 42.9%


1966 Minnesota United States Senatorial Election

Walter Mondale (D) (inc.) 52.7%
Robert A. Forsythe (R) 45.9%

[edit] Notes

[edit] References

  • Gillon, Steven M. The Democrats’ Dilemma: Walter F. Mondale and the Liberal Legacy. 1992
  • Mondale, Walter. The Accountability of Power. 1975.

[edit] External links

Preceded by
Hubert Humphrey
United States Senator (Class 2) from Minnesota
1964 – 1976
Served alongside: Eugene McCarthy, Hubert Humphrey
Succeeded by
Wendell Anderson
Preceded by
Sargent Shriver
Democratic Party Vice Presidential Nominee
1976 (won), 1980 (lost)
Succeeded by
Geraldine Ferraro
Preceded by
Nelson Rockefeller
Vice President of the United States
January 20, 1977January 20, 1981
Succeeded by
George H. W. Bush
Preceded by
Acting heads of executive departments
United States order of precedence
as of 2007
Succeeded by
Dan Quayle
Preceded by
Jimmy Carter
Democratic Party Presidential Nominee
1984 (lost)
Succeeded by
Michael Dukakis
Preceded by
Michael Armacost
U.S. Ambassador to Japan
1993 – 1996
Succeeded by
Tom Foley