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Walter Mondale Kicks Off Senate Campaign

Aired October 31, 2002 - 10:02   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now we want to go to Minneapolis and Senate candidate Walter Mondale.
Let's listen in.

WALTER MONDALE, MINNESOTA SENATE CANDIDATE: David and Mark Wellstone, Paul and Sheila's sons were there. It is a wonderful, wonderful group of Minnesotans who are working to carry on Paul Wellstone's legacy in the Senate. I'm seeking the Senate to do the same thing.

Paul and I were dear friends. Paul and Sheila and Joan and I were dear friends. There was something about him, the way he tapped the spirit and the soul of our state and the way he fought in Washington to have that spirit understood there, that has to be continued. So I'm in this campaign and there's a lot to do and in an almost weird way, no time within which to do it.

I've been in it about 12 hours now and we have about 5 days left. I want to campaign around the state of Minnesota. I want to hear from Minnesotans, the whole series of town halls where we can - excuse me, we can have a discussion. And I want them to hear from me about how I see our future and how we have to deal with it.

I'm worried -- very worried about the economy. I think it's slipping. I think there's an undercurrent of distrust about our nation's economy that requires strong change in reform so that people can trust it. There is an issue of fairness, always, I think, in Washington that must always be addressed. We have to educate our children. We have to give them a chance to go on to school. We have those living in the shadows of life who -- the handicapped and the rest, disadvantaged, that need our attention.

We need to stop this mindless assault on the environment. We need to do something about the scandal of big money in American politics that is compromising and shaming this most sacred of American processes.

And finally, internationally, as we face this very real and dangerous terrorist threat, as we deal with a dreadful, evil man in Iraq, and other serious challenges such as in North Korea, I think there's a need for balance, not only for strength, but also for an America that reflects the values that draw the rest of the world to us. That's saying a lot.

But I think I know how to start being effective on the first day in the Senate. I've been there. I know the rules. I helped shape them. I was the president of the Senate for four years. Under the rules when I return, if the voters will let me, I will become part of the leadership on the first day because I'm a former vice president. That will allow me to go to work immediately to help our state and to help be a force in American life. The time is so short, I ask you to give me your help.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Mr. Vice President ...

QUESTION: A question, sir, can you -- there is a question about the debates.


QUESTION: You know the Republicans have challenged you to a series?


QUESTION: Can you bring us up to date on your position?

MONDALE: Yes. I said I will have a debate. I want to move around the state first. My opponent has been campaigning for six years. I have been out here 12 hours and I want to get around the state and hear from Minnesotans. And I've told my staff to make arrangements for a debate.

QUESTION: But there's a practical matter, if I can follow up, and that is, of course, only five days left. Do you have a specific day that you would prefer?

MONDALE: I've asked them to work on that.

QUESTION: Do you intend to serve a full six-year term, is that your intention (ph)?

MONDALE: Absolutely. I would not seek this if I were not willing to serve the full six years. Absolutely.

QUESTION: Mr. Vice President, how will the emotion of all this state has been through affect the tone of your campaign and the unique position you find yourself in?

MONDALE: I'm very glad you asked that because I think that this state is very much in grieving. All Minnesotans feel that and will for a long time. And yet, in an almost cruel way, unseemly way, we must nevertheless proceed with a political campaign. So I think we will grieve, and for that reason we should have this campaign conducted at a level of civility and understanding and decency while dealing with the issues that is worthy of the moment that we're living through. And I think the world is watching Minnesota. And I think we can show the world that this is a very special state and that our voters are very special and they will do the right thing.

QUESTION: If I may follow up? MONDALE: Yes.

QUESTION: Was the event the other night too political and has that given Republicans a fair point to make that perhaps they deserve equal time for the voters?

MONDALE: Well let me say, you know, I was -- I visited that event along with everyone else. Jeff Blodgett, the chairman of the Wellstone campaign, the next morning said that he was sorry and apologized for some of the comments. But let us remember that this unbelievable event heard from speakers who were talking about loved ones and their family who had lost their lives. They were not censored in what they had to say, and some of the -- at least some of them maybe went a little bit over the line.

Let me say one other thing, I was impressed by the number of Republicans, as well as Democratic public officers, who came there to honor Paul and Sheila. And did -- and I felt -- I loved the feeling of being there together as Americans, not on party line, but together to grieve a great leader. And that's the spirit that I want to see sustained in this campaign.

QUESTION: Mr. Vice President.

QUESTION: Mr. Vice President, how do you answer, as you said yourself, you've only been in this campaign for a few hours.


QUESTION: And Mr. Coleman's been in it for a few years.


QUESTION: And people point out that that means he's had time to hear Minnesotans,...


QUESTION: ... that he feels for the issues that are current in this state and that you've got to get caught up and that you represent politics that are, perhaps, a little old. How are you going to show that you have the politics for right now, the answers for Minnesota to go into the future?

MONDALE: Well that's what this campaign is about. I'm going to be talking about our problems, where we have to go, how I want to deal with them. I believe that that experience, that background equips me to do so. I think I'm quite familiar with the situation in Minnesota. I've lived here almost all my life, and I'm very familiar with our state. But this, being campaigning, this is a little different, and I want to make certain that the people of Minnesota, once again, get a chance to talk with me.

QUESTION: When you -- when you ran for president against Ronald Reagan back in 1984, you questioned his age at the time. Now you find yourself running for office at that age, how do you feel about it now? MONDALE: And I'm glad you ask asked that question. I, on one occasion, cracked a joke in which there was an age edge to it. The next morning I sent a message to Nancy Reagan apologizing. And never again in that campaign did I ever raise it. I'm sorry for that one moment, and I never did it again.

QUESTION: Follow-up, I just mean, you know, do you see now that -- do you see your age as an advantage possibly? You look at yourself and Frank Lautenberg, what do you bring to the table with your age and your experience?

MONDALE: I don't apologize for my experience. I think it's an asset. I think the very things that our country needs right now in that Senate are the things that my experience permits me to bring to bear.

Secondly, while the dates may be different, the fundamental problems and the challenges for the American people remain the same. We've got a serious economy, we've got international security challenges, the other things I talked about and that's what this campaign is about.

QUESTION: On that, Mr. Vice president, how much specificity should voters expect from you on these issues?

MONDALE: A lot. No, I'll be serious about it. You know, five days again. I'm going to spell out exactly where I stand on the key issues. I'm going to answer the public's questions and they have every right to know, specifically, where I want to go.

QUESTION: Could you spell (ph) Iraq again?

MONDALE: I talked about Iraq last night. I refer you to those words, and I'll talk about it again.

QUESTION: If you only have five days and you said you want to get around the state, how come we're -- we've only got one public event scheduled this afternoon here in the city?

MONDALE: Well we've got this event. I've just been on WCCO Radio. I've just had two other interviews. I'm going to the Minneapolis Editorial Board, which I am told is part of the American journalism profession. And I'm -- I hope to do the same in St. Paul paper this afternoon. I'm going to go over to McAllister (ph) to a public forum, and then I hope to go downtown in the IDS Center (ph) and shake hands this afternoon.

QUESTION: As much as it displeasures you, and you've stated this publicly, that you don't like the modern campaigns as much because of the amount of money that's necessary in them.

MONDALE: Right. Right.

QUESTION: How do you go about finding money to spend in a campaign with only seven days to organize? MONDALE: Well I'll tell you what my approach is, I'm not going to make one phone call for money. And I will guarantee you this, we'll have a lot less money than our opposition. And as to the -- as to the specifics, I'll have to get back to that later.

QUESTION: Can you name one thing, Mr. Vice President, the preeminent thing you want to tell voters where you and Norm Coleman differ? Where you would do a better job, specifically, than he would do?

MONDALE: Look, I'm running for the Senate. I'm spelling out my position on the issues. I think it's the journalists' jobs to see where that differs. I would like to spend my time positively talking about where I'd like to take this state and country and a lot less time in the normal political dogfight.

QUESTION: Besides from shaking hands, you have cut one commercial, one TV ad. Are you going to do any more of that and can you tell us what your message will be?

MONDALE: You know, I don't know. We've done two, I think, positive ads. I don't know.

QUESTION: Mr. Vice President...

MONDALE: You know one of the funny things about the position I'm in is that this just happened and I'm not sure what is going to happen in that particular area.

QUESTION: Mr. Vice President, what pressure...

QUESTION: Mr. Vice President, has this been (ph) a part of your plan,...

MONDALE: No, it wasn't (ph).

QUESTION: ... how did you feel when your name was thrown in and you first started hearing that?

MONDALE: Well I was at a reception honoring Paul Wellstone when we got the word of the tragedy. And it just fell like a ton of bricks on me. And then David Wellstone, who is here or was here today, came to me and said that the family hoped that I would pick up the torch. I talked with Joan, and this was not in our plans, but we thought we had to do it and we wanted to do it. I have served my country proudly on many different occasions and I couldn't conceive of not trying to serve it again when it's so needed.

QUESTION: Mr. Vice president, could you talk about the pressure you might feel as an elder statesman of the party to help the Democrats retain the Senate?

MONDALE: Well I'm going to be here in Minnesota. I don't -- in these days, I don't have time to go elsewhere. I hope the Democrats do win in the Senate. It is very tight all over the country. I think this race may be tight. And so the public has it within their power to decide whether they -- what -- have what I call balance where the executive and the legislative branch is balancing each other so that you get a broader range of views and a better, healthier debate. That's what I think our nation needs.

QUESTION: Do you think your election -- do you think your election would change the climate on Capitol Hill? Could you contribute to that? What would you hope your election would do in that regard?

MONDALE: A few weeks before this tragedy, I spoke to the Senate -- the so-called Senate leadership series. And one of the key points in my speech was exactly on that issue, the need for civility in our politics and civility in the Senate, that I had heard that that had gotten more partisan, harsher and I wanted -- I pleaded with them to find ways of disagreeing but doing so reasonably and in a kind way. I think that's essential to a healthy public process. And you bet, if I get back there, I'm going to be one of those trying to find common ground.

Thank you very much. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: ... both sides, isn't it?

MONDALE: You bet. Everybody's got to be -- reach toward that commonsense area.

QUESTION: Some of your views on free trade...

KAGAN: We've been listening in to former Vice President Walter Mondale. He said it best in wrapping up this campaign, it's all of 12 hours old and he only has 5 days left to go to run for the Senate seat that was held by Paul Wellstone before the senator was killed in a plane crash last Friday.

Let's bring in our Bill Schneider standing by in Washington, D.C., to look at this.

It will be one of the historic Senate races in terms of one that's going to make an impact and shortness -- Bill.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. He's only in this campaign for five days. Of course he has a lot of experience and that appears to be what Walter Mondale is running on. He mentioned experience again and again. He said that my age and experience are an asset.

He was reminded that he once joked about Ronald Reagan's age when he ran for president against Reagan in 1984. He said it was a joke and then the next day he apologized to Nancy Reagan and never bought it up again. But he is now about the same age, I believe, that Ronald Reagan was when Reagan was running for reelection in 1984.

KAGAN: He is. And I have to say, and I say this with all due respect, but he does seem significantly older than the Walter Mondale I remember when he was running for president.

SCHNEIDER: Well, here's a secret, he is significantly older than he was 16 years ago, and aren't we all?

KAGAN: Yes, I...

SCHNEIDER: But he doesn't seem to be in any way incapacitated by that. He seems to be totally in command. He was ambassador to Japan, a lot of people don't know this, so he knows a little more about international affairs, perhaps, than he did 20 years ago. He served as President Clinton's ambassador to Japan in the early 1990s.

I thought it was interesting that he stood in front of a sign behind him that said Wellstone. Clearly one of the things he's running on besides his own experience and stature is the memory of Paul Wellstone in the sense that he will pick up the fallen banner and carry on Paul Wellstone's ideas.

KAGAN: All right, Bill, I want to have you stand by. Our Bob Franken was actually in that news conference and bring him up on this point, Bill making a good point about Wellstone being there and right behind you. What about the man who would love to have his name out there, Norm Coleman, the Republican, now running against Walter Mondale?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well let me just before I get to Norm Coleman, I want to point out that there's a reason these signs are still up and that is because they haven't printed any Mondale signs yet. About the only ones are a few that people have hand lettered. They are furiously trying to print signs and buttons. About the only Mondale buttons we've seen in the last day are from some collectors, the Bill Schneider's of this world, who show us Mondale '84 buttons, which, of course, is the last time that he ran. And of course, we only have five days.

One other point that I wanted to make is that the Republicans and Norm Coleman are demanding debates. You heard Vice President Mondale say that he has authorized his people to negotiate a debate. Of course there's only five days left and Bill, of course, knows the old -- the old platitude that campaigns are normally not sprints but marathons. Well this one is a sprint and we're going to find out just how well a 74-year-old does in a sprint.

KAGAN: Let me go back to your point, Bob, about the Mondale posters not being printed up. I have to believe once they are every Mondale poster will also have the word Wellstone on it as well to make that link that a vote for Walter Mondale is a vote for Paul Wellstone.

FRANKEN: Certainly. And as a matter of fact, we've been hearing that Democrats across the country are trying to energize constituency, not just in Minnesota, but elsewhere, particularly those Democrats who I might call the 1960's Democrats, many of whom have been disaffected by the direction of the party, and that in other states people are going to say in memory of Paul Wellstone, who did stand for those ideals, get out and vote. So, yes, Paul Wellstone is going to obviously be very much a part of this campaign, but now it's become the Walter Mondale campaign.

KAGAN: All right, Bob Franken in Minnesota, thank you so much. Want to bring Bill Schneider in to point out one other political event going on at the very same time and that is in South Dakota. President Bush on the campaign trail. This one to try to affect a very tight Senate race in South Dakota -- Bill.

SCHNEIDER: That's right. That's one of the tightest Senate races in the country between the incumbent, Tim Johnson, a Democrat, and his opponent, John Thune, Republican, recruited by the White House. And to a lot of people -- I was in South Dakota a few weeks ago, to a lot of people in South Dakota, first of all, the race is overwhelming because they have so many ads on television. It doesn't cost so much to run ads in South Dakota and they're just blanketed with ads. And to a lot of them, it looks like a race between George Bush and Tom Daschle because Bush is seen as the patron of the Republican John Thune and Daschle is the patron of Tim Johnson, the Democratic incumbent.

KAGAN: All right, well we'll be seeing more from South Dakota, also more of Bill Schneider.


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