Joe Biden honors Walter Mondale, says he changed vice presidency

Joe Biden honored Minnesota’s Walter Mondale on Tuesday at George Washington University -- both men talked about the modern vice presidency and how Mondale helped shape it.

There was absolutely no mention of whether or not Biden will be running for president. And it very well could have been part of the ground rules for Biden’s participation on Tuesday.

But this was really all about honoring Walter Mondale and how he changed the role of the vice president -- Mondale said it was a job he really didn't want.  When Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale won the White House in 1976, Mondale said he wanted to play a different role.

“I wanted to be a general advisor to the president,” he said.

But that's not how it had been in the past. Minnesota's Hubert Humphrey as vice president had a rocky relationship at best with Lyndon Johnson, and Mondale sought Humphrey’s advice.

"I said 'what do you recommend for me?' And he said, 'I'd take it,’” Mondale said. “He said ‘I'd think you'd like it.’ He said ‘I think it would broaden you.’ He said, 'I think you could do more in one day as vice president than you do all week or all year as a senator and you'll grow and learn.’" 

Fast forward to 2008, Joe Biden had a similar quandary when joining the Barack Obama ticket.

"And the first person I called was Fritz [Mondale],” Biden said. “That's not hyperbole, that's the first person I called.  And I said, 'Tell me about the motives vendee you and President Carter worked out.'"

What Mondale worked out was a role as chief as advisor and troubleshooter for President Carter. It's the same role Biden said he's now fulfilling for President Obama.

"And I get to be the last person in the room and make my case to him privately and that's where I think I can serve best and I hope I have served best in that role and that's what you did Fritz and that's what you advised me."      

But Mondale had more influence than just reshaping the modern vice presidency. He also changed the face of congress by helping to elect Georgia civil rights leader Andrew Young.  Young went on to become Carter and Mondale's ambassador to the United Nations and later the Mayor of Atlanta. 

President Carter will be joining Mondale for a gala in Mondale’s honor in Washington D.C. on Tuesday night.