WASHINGTON – When Joe Biden was faced with the prospect of becoming the vice presidential nominee back in 2008, he turned to Walter Mondale.
And Mondale's counsel has stuck with Biden in the years since. The president detailed his long standing relationship with the man he called "a dear friend and mentor" in a White House statement late Monday, following the news that Mondale had died at the age of 93.
"Fritz was my first call and trusted guide," Biden recalled about the decision in 2008 that would change his life. "He not only took my call, he wrote me a memo. It was Walter Mondale who defined the vice presidency as a full partnership, and helped provide a model for my service."
The relationship between Mondale and Biden goes back decades to when Biden was a freshman U.S. senator and the more senior Minnesotan "was one of the first people to greet" the Delaware Democrat. And in the days before Mondale's death, Biden recounted that he and the first lady spoke to Mondale and the Democrat's family "to reflect on the years of friendship we shared, and how much we learned from and leaned on each other."
Biden and other political leaders are marking the passing of a legendary figure in Minnesota and Democratic politics. Many pointed to the ways Mondale elevated the role of the vice president from being a punchline in jokes, to the stature it holds today as a key influence on how an administration operates.
Former President Barack Obama praised Mondale in a tweet as a leader who "championed progressive causes and changed the role of VP — so leaders like Joe Biden could be the last ones in the room when decisions were made."
And Republican U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, who represents Minnesota's Eighth Congressional District, described Mondale as a "true public servant who will long be remembered for his integrity and compassion."
"He put Minnesota on the map of politics and our entire state will always be proud of him," Stauber tweeted.
Mondale's influence can still be felt in Washington today. As business got underway in the Senate Tuesday morning, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke from the floor about the Minnesotan who was "a giant of Democratic politics."
"Vice President Mondale will be remembered as a lion of progressive politics," Schumer said. "An ardent defender of civil rights, aid to schoolchildren, child care, healthcare and consumer protections."©2021 StarTribune. Visit at startribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.