- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 5, 2002

Minnesota Democrats' determination to run retread Walter Mondale is one of the more bizarre occurrences in this year's election cycle. On its face, Mr. Mondale's four decades of public service suggests a level of experience that other replacements simply can't match. But the facts of Mr. Mondale's time as Jimmy Carter's vice president, his failed presidential bid and his years in the U.S. Senate paint a pretty bleak picture.

Elected to the U.S. Senate in 1964, Mr. Mondale served 12 years until Jimmy Carter tapped him as his running mate in 1976.

The Carter-Mondale administration is well-remembered as the most beleaguered period in the 20th century. Every American recalls the days of double-digit inflation, interest rates of 20 percent, double-digit unemployment and gas lines that stretched several city blocks. Messrs. Carter and Mondale's decision to eagerly cultivate Cold War detente emboldened Iranian hardliners to sack the U.S. Embassy in 1979, taking 52 American hostages. Collectively, the Carter-Mondale years were so painful and so humiliating that a Misery Index was devised to measure Americans' despair.

Even Walter Mondale was amazed at the level of helpless incompetence demonstrated by his and Mr. Carter's administration. He reflected sometime later, "The nation sustained gasoline shortages, double-digit inflation, and a serious recession. I thought there was not much I could do to change things, so why break my health trying?"

Not surprisingly, Ronald Reagan swept the hapless duo out of power in 1980, capturing nearly 10 times as many electoral votes as his incumbent opponents. The Republican Party was able to ride Mr. Reagan's coattails to capture their first majority in the Senate since 1954, and after 444 days in captivity, the American hostages returned the same day as Mr. Reagan's inauguration. The defeat of liberals Walter Mondale and Jimmy Carter was so complete that most observers figured Mr. Mondale and certainly Mr. Carter were finished politically.

But just four years later, the Democrats recycled Mr. Mondale along with liberal Rep. Geraldine Ferraro in a bid to unseat a hugely popular Mr. Reagan. The tandem was subsequently served up the biggest electoral defeat in American political history. Mr. Mondale managed only 13 electoral votes to Mr. Reagan's 525; besides winning the reliably Democrat District of Columbia he carried only his home state of Minnesota by less than 4,000 votes.

Mr. Mondale's penchant for tax increases and big-government advocacy certainly rubbed many in his own party the wrong way. Senator Ernest Hollings once called Mr. Mondale "a good lap dog" who "gives 'em anything they want." Former Sen. Gary Hart could never get over how bad things had been when Mr. Mondale was vice president, callingthe Carter-Mondale administration "weak, inept, uncertain"and marked by "days of shame in Iran." Sen. John Glenn once ripped Mr. Mondale's affinity for budget deficits and his tendencyto promise government pork. "The American people know that a candidate who promises everything to everybody can't be serious about controlling the federal budget," Mr. Glenn sniped during the 1984 Democratic primaries.

During that same contest, Mr. Reagan touched on another sore subject for Mr. Mondale's detractors Mr. Mondale's hatred for the military and great reluctance to fund defense. "He was against the F-14 fighter, the M-1 tank, the B-1 bomber, and he wanted to cut the salary of all the military. He wanted to bring home half of the American forces in Europe. Indeed, he was on that side throughout all his years in the Senate and he opposed even Mr. Carter when, toward the end of his term, Mr. Carter wanted to increase the defense budget," Mr. Reagan told the American people during an October 1984 debate.

Mr. Reagan was commenting on a recurrent theme that publications like the Congressional Quarterly had reported on many times before. In 1976, CQ described Mr. Mondale's Senate record as focused "almost entirely on domestic issues … except to oppose military spending that could drain money from domestic needs." Mr. Mondale was even a charter member of the Senate's infamous Church Committee, which succeeded in dismantling America's intelligence capabilities. The actions of the Church Committee are still being felt today as America tries to rebuild our intelligence forces to assist with the war on terror.

Throughout the 1980s, while America reveled in Mr. Reagan's tax cuts and the president's challenging of Soviet aggression, Mr. Mondale championed tax increases and a nuclear freeze, in the same way he'd lobbied for Social Security tax increases and compromise with the communists while in the Senate and as vice president. Mr. Reagan's Cold War triumph and historic economic expansion proved Mr. Mondale wrong.

Ultimately, the decision to tap Mr. Mondale, a 74-year-old retiree, raises questions about the DFL in Minnesota. Rather than choosing an energizer, someone like former Minnesota Vikings all-pro defender Alan Page, who now is a 57-year-old Associate Justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court, the progressive New Democrats of Bill Clinton are propping up a tired retread.


David N. Bossie is the president of Citizens United and the former chief investigator for the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight.

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