The world of US politics has been reacting to the news that broke last night that Walter F. Mondale, the Vice President under Jimmy Carter, has died at the age of 93.
Mondale has been praised for his integrity and many decades as a public servant, and for helping to transform the Vice Presidency into a more meaningful role.
Unsurprisingly, one of the most heartfelt tributes came from former President Carter, who hailed his one-time VP as the “best vice president in our country’s history.”
“During our administration, Fritz used his political skill and personal integrity to transform the vice presidency into a dynamic, policy-driving force that had never been seen before and still exists today,” Carter wrote in a statement.
A groundbreaking vice president
Mondale is widely considered the first modern vice president, helping to transform the position from a largely symbolic role to a more active partner and advisor to the president. (“The vice presidency was a joke before Walter Mondale,” as Slate puts it.)
He was the first Vice President to have an office in the White House as opposed to the Executive Office Building next door, and set a precedent of having weekly lunches with President Carter, a tradition that continues today.
“He had unprecedented access to the president,” said Mondale’s chief of staff Richard Moe, according to The Hill.
And Carter, who chose the Senator from Minnesota as his running mate in the 1976 election, respected Mondale’s acumen and relied on him both as an advisor and an ambassador for the administration’s policies.
“He was an invaluable partner and an able servant of the people of Minnesota, the United States, and the world,” Carter wrote. “Fritz Mondale provided us all with a model for public service and private behavior.”
“Rosalynn and I join all Americans in giving thanks for his exemplary life, and we extend our deepest condolences to his family.”
While their administration lasted just one term, Carter and Mondale remained close: according to the New York Times, Mondale called Carter just this past weekend before he died.
Mondale’s later career
The Carter/Mondale ticket lost reelection in 1980, defeated by Republican President Ronald Reagan and VP George H.W. Bush.
But Mondale was back on the ticket in 1984, as the Democratic candidate for president. He made a historic first by selecting Representative Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate, the first woman to be on a major party’s presidential ticket.
His bid for presidency ultimately resulted in a landslide defeat to President Reagan, who was enjoying peak popularity, but Mondale humbly accepted the defeat, and later felt vindicated in his then-unpopular pledge to raise taxes.
“It was very unpopular, but it was undeniably correct,” he said according to AP.
Mondale ran one more time for Senate in 2002, stepping in as a last-minute replacement on the ticket after the death of Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone in a plane crash. Mondale narrowly lost the race.
Since then, Mondale has remained involved in politics, serving as an advisor to politicians in his party and in his home state of Minnesota.
In addition to former President Carter, others in Washington have paid their respects to the late Mondale.
President Joe Biden recalled that Mondale was one of the first people he contacted for advice when he agreed to be the running mate of Barack Obama: “Fritz was my first call and trusted guide,” Biden said.
“It was Walter Mondale who defined the vice presidency as a full partnership, and helped provide a model for my service.”
Former president Obama also paid tribute, recalling Mondale as someone who “championed progressive causes and changed the role of the VP,” citing his selection of Rep. Ferraro as paving the way for current VP Kamala Harris, the first woman to hold the position.
“Michelle and I send prayers to his family,” Obama wrote.
Mike Pence, the former VP under Donald Trump, shared a photo of himself with Mondale, calling him “a man who served Minnesota & America with distinction throughout this public life.”
“We send our deepest sympathies & prayers to the Mondale Family & all who admired this truly good man,” Pence wrote.
And Amy Klobuchar, who like Mondale is a Senator from Minnesota, also recalls Mondale as a “friend and mentor.”
“He set a high bar for himself and kept passing it and raising it, passing it and raising it,” Sen. Klobuchar wrote.
Rest in peace, Walter Mondale. He will be remembered for his integrity and lifelong commitment to his country.
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