Back to the Seventies with Walter Mondale

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For most people, it’s hard to imagine what it’s like to be Barack Obama as his Administration’s high hopes are dashed by daily waves of bad news. But for Walter Mondale, who spent four years as Jimmy Carter’s Vice-President, the experience is all too familiar. When the public sours on you, he said last week, the Presidency seems “like a unique four-year marriage contract, in which divorce is not an option.”

Mondale, now in his eighties, was speaking on the phone from his home state of Minnesota, in advance of the publication of his memoir, “The Good Fight: A Life in Liberal Politics.” He could not help noting the similarities between Obama’s embattled White House and Carter’s. The problems that he and Carter faced from 1976 until 1980, he recalled, often seemed “overwhelming,” with “no good answers” in sight. As the economy was ravaged by what was known as “stagflation,” he said, the public “just turned against us—same as with Obama.” He went on, “People think the President is the only one who can fix their problems. And, if he doesn’t produce solutions, I’m telling you—when a person loses a job, or can’t feed his family, or can’t keep his house, he is no longer rational. They become angry, they strike out—and that’s what we have now. If you’re President, they say, ‘Do something!’ ”...

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