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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Loved it, absolutely loved it. First of all, a political biography is always biased, and you expect it to be. A person cannot spend 30 or 40 years living a political life, and at the end say, you know, I was all wrong. That's not why you read political biographies. We read such a book to get a better feel for the same period of time that WE lived through, and see if it adds new light on our own individual understanding of the history of that period.

I doubt if very many who did not live through the 60's and 70's will read this book, so why did I love it? I found it to be honest, candid, real, and just as I thought it would be. Mondale occupied five positions in his life, state attorney general of Minnesota, at 32 he was the youngest in his state's history. He was a United States Senator, Vice-President, Presidential candidate, and US Ambassador to Japan.

There are four words that characterize his life, and they come through on every page of this book. They are Decent, Thoughtful, Likable, and Underestimated. What he says about the Carter Administration where he served honorably as Vice-President can be said about his life. We told the truth. We obeyed the law. We kept the peace. What more can one expect from a politician.

Before writing more, you need to know that many times I will read a 400 or 500 page book looking for that one paragraph or thought, or that one sentence that made the entire book worth reading. I found it on page 339 in his last chapter entitled, "Looking Forward". Mondale quotes Lincoln, and says the following:

"The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do for themselves, in their separate and individual capacities." This sums up Mondale's political life, and the values he based it on.

The most important chapters in the book are the following:

Chapter 4) Lost Trust: Viet Nam and the Election of 1968

Chapter 8) Meeting a New Democrat

Chapter 9) Our First Year in the White House

Chapter 11) America in an Age of Limits

Chapter 13) The Election of 1980

Chapter 14) Mondale vs. Reagan

In retrospect you can see why Ronald Reagan pummeled Carter / Mondale in 1980. One is talking about morning in America while the other is talking about America in an Age of Limits. People always move towards those with an optimistic agenda. Throughout the book, Mondale is adamant about observing and implementing the following philosophy.

* Obey the law

* Do your homework

* Trust the American People

Mondale says that the most indispensible asset of the Presidency is "public trust", once it's gone, you're done. He uses both Lyndon Johnson and Viet Nam, and Richard Nixon and Watergate as examples of this behavior, and he goes into intimate detail about both cases.

He is terribly disappointed in the Viet Nam era. He wanted to break with the Johnson Administration earlier but kept getting talked out of it by his fellow professional politicians. It took an extra year or two for him to realize that he and the American people were being lied to. It took even longer for him to effectively align himself with the left and try to find a way out. In retrospect he calls Viet Nam a sink hole, how appropriate.

His description of Senate life then and now is very appropriate, accurate, and worthwhile. You get a terrific understanding of what it was like to be in the CLUB as they say. It was an era of civility, as compared to partisanship today, and why not? At the peak of their power in 1965, the Democrats controlled 68 seats, and the Republicans 32, of course they were civil. We now live in an age where the political composition is switching every few years, and thus it brings much more partisanship into play.

Mondale as a senator is particularly proud of the 1965 Congress which ushered in more social progress in his opinion than any other time in American history. President Johnson pushed for 87 bills in 1965 and Mondale points out that 84 became law, and all passed within 60 days of proposal - no hemming and hewing in that session. These laws included Medicare, the Voting Rights Act, Aid to Poor Children, the Immigration Act, and a tax cut. From Pell Grants, to Head Start, to Fair Housing, these were his proudest moments as a legislator.

Throughout his lifetime, Hubert Humphrey was always the mentor, and Mondale the loyal student. No one worked harder for Humphrey's election to the White House in 1968 than Fritz Mondale. It was heartbreaking, in order to win, Humphrey would need to break with the President over Viet Nam. This was something Humphrey could not bring himself to do until very late in the campaign. The gap immediately closed but Humphrey lost with 42.7% of the vote to Nixon's 43.4%, the remainder going to George Wallace of Alabama. Both Humphrey and Mondale are devastated, and the story is told in exquisite detail in this tome.

If you want to know Mondale's take on the CIA hearings, and the J. Edgar Hoover excesses, he doesn't pull any punches. He tells you why both the FBI and the CIA had free reign over America for decades, and what it took for the Congress to rein in both agencies. From the enemies list to the surveillance and interference in Martin Luther King Jr's life, Mondale lays it out in page after page. It's unvarnished and thrilling, to get an insider's view of this period in America's history.

The Good Fight: A Life in Liberal Politics is Walter Mondale's gift to all of us. A decent man, who did decent things, and in the process is leaving the world a better place for having lived his life. What more can anyone ask of a politician? He was honest, trust worthy, not a hint of scandal, and on top of his game. He did not make it to the Presidency, but then again, how many do? Thank you for reading this review and as a political biography, it deserves 5 stars.

Richard C. Stoyeck
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2010
Mr Mondale has written a book with candor, humility and integrity. What he has to say is interesting, informative, instructive and quite often reveals his wonderful sense of humor. He has been a remarkable public servant all of his life
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 2010
Mondale's account of a life in politics is a fascinating and nostalgic account of the days when people of good will and a desire to serve the public did not have to spend millions of dollars to buy an election, when civil discourse prevailed both on the campaign trail and in Congress and when single-issue demagogues did not pervert the legislative process by refusal to compromise for the greater good. Today, more than ever, we need men like Mondale in Washington - but today, more than ever, the such men of wisdom, foresight and compassion are unable or unwilling to enter or remain with that fray. A good read for folks of all political pursuasions as it is an example of the type of public servant we need to return to government if we are to appropriately deal with the issues confronting this country, both internally and internationally.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 14, 2011
Former Vice President Walter Mondale has come out with a brand new, stunning account of his oft-underestimated political career. In this book Mondale writes about his time in the Minnesota halls of power, his role as Carter's number two and his own spectacularly disastrous yet honest run for president.

Much of Mondale's book is not just a rundown of the events during his political life but also an in-depth analysis of his times. Mondale, a protege of Hubert Humphrey (arguably one of the greatest presidents we never had), climbed nearly to the top in Washington during a transition: Democrats, long the occupants of the White House, were losing their hold on national elections. Thanks to the failures of Vietnam, the overreach of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society,and the chaos of civil rights, Republicans started to position themselves as the more sane and responsible party. The Republican comeback of 1968 (with Richard Nixon) and the conservative dominance of 1980 (with Ronald Reagan) ensured that Democrats, once the saviors of the nation styled after Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal policies, were now a fringe, out of touch with America and only electable to national office by fluke; Jimmy Carter's near miss was a result of Nixon's self destruction and Bill Clinton's mandate-less elections the result of GOP bumbling.

One thing I can appreciate about Mondale is his unswerving sense of duty. Just as he and Carter were wedded to fixing human rights abuses during their administration, they were focused on showing America as a compassionate nation, enough so to ensure the Iran Hostage Crisis, a result of letting a sick man into the nation for medical care. The two most riveting parts of this book are his perspective on Ted Kennedy's ill-considered challenge to the independent minded President Carter, and his own run for the White House, unprecedented for his selection of a woman to run with him for high office. While his admission to wanting to raise taxes was a self-immolating gesture, it reveals the substance in the man: we can't live in this nation running on the cheap, and we must face harsh realities. He warned the nation of the potential damage of the Reagan deficits, and most people, especially Republicans in their greed, ignored him at their own peril.

All in all, this is a must-have for any political junkie, not just to read about the man himself but the era he lived in.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 2011
Walter Mondale's political career was born in the rear view mirror of a progressive hurricane called Hubert Humphrey. Humphrey was a dynamo who transformed the state of Minnesota from in Mondale's words " a state with a long history of bigotry and anti-semitism" to a state that was an "incubator of progressive ideas". Mondale as a political younger brother was faced with the prospect of following a legend. Most would shrink from this responsibility, but Mondale summoned an inner strength that allowed him to follow a complementary path.

Nowhere near the outsized personality that Humphrey was , he was able to help chart a new and responsible progressive course for this country. In teaming with President Carter he was paired with an individual who had the same respect for the decency and honesty of the American people. Carter and Mondale were the first campaign to face the reactionary elements of the New Republican Party that packaged itself as the combination of Country Club Conservatives aligned with disaffected working class whites. That combination proved lethal for progressives in the 1980 election.

In 1984 Mondale running in his own right Mondale was able to secure the Democratic nomination after a spirited contest against Senator Garry Hart. In the coming weeks He threw two of the biggest "Hail Mary" passes in the history of the United States.The selection of the first female Vice President candidate in Geraldine Ferraro along with the proposal to raise income tax rates to close the rapidly escalating budget deficits caused by President Reagan's enormous tax cuts(from a 70% top bracket to a 28%) for the wealthiest Americans. He payed the price for being honest with the American people and lost all the states except for Minnesota.

As the years have progressed we see that the blatant greed of the American Plutocrat in the 1980's would start the process of dwindling the "American Dream" to just the favored few. Has this country learned the lessons of the 1980's? We still have time, but we can't procrastinate much longer, Mondale's campaign speech of March 6, 1984 provides a road map:
"This new idea is the eseence of the battle we're in. The idea is this: If you fight for the values that the Democratic Party has always believed in, you're supposed to go on a guilt trip. But if you fight against them, you're supposed to be applauded. If you fight for better schools you're old. But if you fight for big oil, you're new. If a worker wants a raise, that's greedy. But if a plant closes down, that's trendy. I don't accept it. And I won't cut my values to fit this year's fashion. It's not a campaign for new ideas and old ideas..It's a fight between what's right and wrong"
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on May 13, 2013
Walter Mondal is in many ways the symbol of American liberalism in the 1980's. He is a good man for sure.

The memoirs are a little light on facts and references. I felt his defense of his political programs was lacking. For example, with the Senate cloture rule, he advocated lower the threshold and to further lowering it as recent as the printing of the book. However underlying this thought is the idea that passing bills is a virtue. Moreoever, the cloture rule, aimed at permiting a successful passage of a bill with as little as 60 votes implies a partisan divide, an idea he aggressively claims to be occuring in the Senate. The disagreements in the Senate, it seems, are less partisan and more ideological than in the past, and if that is the case, then such a measure would be unjustified. I even think the minimal 60 required for cloture should be raised with a significant number of votes from members of both parties in order for a bill to pass. Just an idea but Mondale has his oppinion and they are in this book.

He talks a lot about his friends Humphrey and Carter. He really doesn't talk about policy in the detail I wanted but that might be fine for most people. Overall its about the best you will get from him on his life and something of an interesting description of how someone gets the go ahead to become the running mate-a process few people have ever experienced.

I would recommend it but not to everyone.
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on November 12, 2013
This is one of the most unrated books on the market. It is absolutely STUNNING in it's explanation of that last decades in Politics in America. Vice President Walter Mondale does not lay blame, whine, implicate, or complain.........he simply writes about things truthfully, and in the manner of a Historian, his humor sometimes just makes you chuckle, however.

I'm a Minnesotan, born and raised here, and proud of my State. I met most of the people written about including the Kennedy brothers, since my family were very political active, in spite of being working class Farm folk.

It's hard at my age, to look at the mess we all are in, now. I come from a time that the GOP and DFL parties in MN could bitterly disagree, but in the end do what was best for all the people, not just the wealthy powerful ones. We need to get to that place again.
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on March 7, 2013
This book is very well written and keeps your attention the whole time and I am a great admirer of Walter Mondale. So let me explain my rating. This is a candid tale of Mondale's life in politics, much of it is his life inside the Carter Presidency. Through out the book he details the wins and losses of his political life. As I read this book I could not help but be angry about all the lost opportunities. Things that had Mondale/Carter been stronger politicians we would have made this country stronger instead of giving into the conservative wave they gave way too that wiped out so much of the good work done before them.

Clearly this book is a candid tale. Mondale does not hide the failures. In his biography, he tells it like it is. But I could not help but thinking had he been more persuasive how far we would have gone.

While their were many successes I ended up getting hung up on the failures. It left me somewhat less impressed with one of the few truly good men in politics which is not how I wanted to be.
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on January 1, 2013
I recently attended a Minnesota Public Radio live discussion between former VP Walter Mondale and (now retired) Gary Eichten, long-time MPR host, and bought a copy of Mr. Mondale's book because I'm a Minnesotan and wanted to learn more about his experiences in Washington. It "doubles" as a biography, but goes deep into the politics of of the time and is very readable even if the reader isn't from Minnesota! Of course, the story is also about President Jimmy Carter, and Mr. Mondale has explained and amplified many "behind the scenes" events to enliven the history! I was lucky to find another copy on Amazon and Mr. Mondale was kind enough to sign them both -- so both of my sons will be able to pass them on to the grandchildren!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2011
This is a provocative and motivating account of an all too unrecognized statesman. His positive view of government and what it can do to change lives and move America forward is brilliantly displayed in this book. It is very insightful for readers of all political backgrounds.
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