Thursday, April 22, 2021



courtesy:  New York Times

I never met Walter Mondale, but I did cover his visit to Wilkes-Barre, just before the 1984 presidential election, the one where Mondale suffered one of the worst beatings in American history.

I remember it was a chilly and grey day.  Mondale was far, far behind in the polls.  His choice of a running mate, New York Representative Geraldine Ferraro seemed to be hurting the ticket, not helping.  The crowd on the square that afternoon wasn't huge.  It wasn't very enthusiastic.  The handwriting was on the wall and Mondale could read.  I give him credit for trying his best until the last day of the campaign.

Mondale was vice president during the failed Jimmy Carter presidency.  He was a loyal second in command and a Washington insider, which the Georgia governor really needed.  Mondale never outshined his boss, and if,  God forbid, something happened to Carter, the country would have been in competent hands.

The only drama on election night 1984 was to see if Mondale would lose all 50 states.  He came close, winning only his home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia.  Ronald Reagan was very popular, recovering in the second debate from a poor performance in the first.  Mondale's honesty got him in trouble.  Note to future candidates:  Don't promise to raise taxes.

Mondale was the first to put a woman on a major party's presidential ticket.  I remember the process.  Mondale interviewed everyone, men and women, every ethnicity, every background.  Mayors, representatives, senators...  Geraldine Ferraro was an interesting choice.  She brought geographic balance to the ticket-- and a lot of controversy.  Her pro choice stance prompted protests, including some big and vocal ones here in our area.  Ferraro's husband's business ties came under the microscope.  They were distractions an already foundering campaign didn't need.

This campaign was doomed right from the beginning.  Reagan was well liked and the master of the media.  The "Morning in America" ads were genius.   Mondale was solid, but dull.  He wasn't very good on television and he couldn't shake the stench of the last days of the Carter presidency  America voted to stay the course.

Mondale was fiercely liberal, and whether or not you agreed with his politics, he did seem like a decent guy.

Walter Mondale died Monday.  He was 93.