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Walter Mondale – delayed respects

Walter Mondale had a belated memorial service on May 1. He was no giant, but he did belong to a time when even Democrats were gentlemen.

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The late Walter Mondale finally received his last respects yesterday, from his fellow Democrats. They made a ridiculously exaggerated claim about him. But perhaps that goes to show that no one can assess him without bias. For in point of fact he supported everything that is wrong with America today.

Walter Mondale actually died last year

Walter Mondale actually died in April of last year. But the COVID-19 lockdowns prevented anyone from holding any kind of public ceremony. His fellow Democrats finally held that ceremony Sunday. Axios, Minneapolis Public Radio, and NBC News, among others, covered it.

Appropriately, it fell on May Day – the International Communist holiday. True, he never carried a Communist Party card, but Walter Mondale did derive his notions of statecraft from Communist principles. More on that below.

At that ceremony, politicians from Minnesota and elsewhere lavished the usual over-the-top praise on him. Joe Biden called him “a giant in American political history.” Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) praised him for offering to run for the Senate after Paul Wellstone died. Senator Tina Smith, the other Senator from Minnesota, said he could make someone feel that they mattered to him.

In short, these Democrats praised Walter Mondale as a team player, who thought of the team. But “a giant in American political history” he was not. A “giant” does not lose in such a landslide as the Election of 1984. More important than his losing was why he lost. By all accounts he ran a lackluster campaign. And one thing became painfully obvious: he was not comfortable making speeches to large numbers of people. And when you run against one known for his communications skills, you either find that comfort level, or lose.

Walter Mondale v. Paul Wellstone

Your editor met Walter Mondale once, during his campaign to be Vice-President. He came to Yale University and delivered an address to students in front of Connecticut Hall. The statue of Nathan Hale, which at the time stood near the building’s long wall, provided a backdrop and landmark. He spoke then of shame for his country – a theme his successors constantly sound today. Some of his criticisms of Ford administration policy were correct – like Ford’s support for Pakistan in the Pakistan-Bangladesh War. But mostly he delivered a screed about how America does not “take care” of its citizens, with the kind of cradle-to-grave services that the Soviet Union promised but never quite delivered.

Senator Mondale made part of a long line of leftist politicians whom Minnesotans have sent to the Senate over the years. Paul Wellstone, one of his successors, springs to mind. He held forth repeatedly for cradle-to-grave welfare and almost all the things Democrats push today. And when he died, mourners turned his memorial service into an unabashed political rally.

Who can forget Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) delivering his “For Paul!” stemwinder?

For Paul Wellstone, will you stand up, and keep fighting, for social and economic justice? SAY YES!

Actually, we have no reason to doubt that Paul Wellstone would have wanted his memorial service to go that way. But tellingly, all that Walter Mondale got were some tired-sounding speeches. Is this really how people remember a “giant in American political history”?

Compared to …

But though Walter Mondale fell short in comparison to Paul Wellstone, he probably would be a better Senator today than Amy Klobuchar has been. No one ever saw him blubbing because a favorite candidate does not sit on the Supreme Court. Nor talking about ideological balance on the Supreme Court. Amy Klobuchar did both these things during Trump’s term.

Perhaps he simply knew enough never to say the quiet part out loud. He definitely belonged to a Senate that conducted itself more like a private club than a legislative body. Walter Mondale was never one for the kind of invective one hears in the Senate today. (And also heard in the Senate of Rome.) At least he knew the concept of “a time and a place for everything.”

And at that Yale rally, he was willing to stand close enough to a bunch of students that they could touch him. He even pressed the flesh with them afterward, and not in any receiving line, either. Not many politicians will do that today. If he really did have Republican friends in the Senate, that could be why.

Suppose he hadn’t lost his head and said,

If elected, I will raise taxes.

at his nominating convention in 1984. Would he have still lost? We don’t know. We do know he still had enough of the common touch. A giant he was not, but he did belong to a time few of us remember, which is now gone.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

CATEGORY:Human Interest
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