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Today Show Turns to Walter Mondale to Advise Obama

Former Vice President Walter Mondale appeared on Monday's Today show to plug his new book, The Good Fight, and NBC's Amy Robach asked the failed 1984 presidential candidate if he had any advice for Barack Obama, as the midterms approach, as she asked: "A lot has been compared to President Jimmy Carter's presidency to President Obama's" and recalling Mondale's run against Ronald Reagan: "Do you think that President Obama and Democrats are facing a similar situation come November?" For his part Mondale advised that Obama should get rid of his teleprompters or "idiot boards" as he called them because as "smart as he can be, he needs to talk right into that camera and talk to people because people are hurting."

The following is the full interview as it was aired on the October 4 Today show:

AMY ROBACH: At the age of 32, Walter Mondale became the youngest attorney general in Minnesota history, beginning a life of public service. He went on to serve in the U.S. Senate and as Vice President under President Jimmy Carter and now he's opening up about it all in his new book The Good Fight: A Life In Liberal Politics. Mr. Vice President, good morning, nice to have you here.

WALTER MONDALE: Thank you, delighted to be here.

ROBACH: I have to ask. As you sat down to write your memoirs what lessons from your political career, did you deliberately put into the book as it relates to today's environment? Because there are some very eerily similar things going on today-

MONDALE: Yes.

ROBACH: -that were going on during your vice presidency.

MONDALE: Yeah and a lot of the issues - I was surprised by that, as I wrote about events that I had been involved in, how many of them, maybe with some difference, but apply today. I've got a chapter in there about the rules fight to try to make the Senate operable so they can get things done. It's the same issue they've got today. And in my closing chapter I talk about the incivility and paralysis that we had. We didn't have as much of it, in those days, but it's, we, we, we dealt with it.

ROBACH: And a lot has been compared to President Jimmy Carter's presidency to President Obama's, and in fact, in a recent interview you said that when faced with a bad economy and bad poll numbers, that President Carter should have gone out in front of the people, in front of the public more and, in fact, you told the New Yorker, you see a similar problem with Obama. You say, quote, "I think he needs to get rid of those teleprompters and connect. He's smart as Hell, he can do it!" That's your advice to President Obama?

MONDALE: Well that's the way it came out. I, what I said was that I thought Carter should have gotten out earlier. We had the hostage crisis with our people being taken hostage in Iran and the President was working in the White House and at some point I told him, I said, "Mr. President you, you've got to get out across America making your point." It's a, a little bit different issue in terms of my suggestions for Obama, but those idiot boards that they read are distracting, I believe. And he is really good, smart as he can be, he needs to talk right into that camera and talk to people, because people are hurting. Ya gotta identify...

ROBACH: And the elections are coming up. In fact in recalling-

MONDALE: That is true.

ROBACH: -your own run against Ronald Reagan back in 1984 you wrote, "Reagan was selling morning in America, I was selling a root canal." What did you mean by that? And do you think that President Obama and Democrats are facing a similar situation come November?

MONDALE: Well, you know, I'm the, I'm the old grind. I was talking about the problems we had and how we had to find answers.

ROBACH: Higher taxes, less spending?

MONDALE: Yeah, yeah and old Reagan was up there talking about morning in America and how nice it was to be in that town and so on. That's right. You know I don't think a president, I think President Obama, as he is, has got to talk about real problems. That's not what I meant to say, but I think he's got to find a way of, of, of having people feel him and knowing that he cares that, it's, he can do that but he has to do that.

ROBACH: Talk a little bit about how you and Jimmy Carter changed the role of Vice President. It had lasting effects.

MONDALE: Until Carter and I went into the White House the Vice President was what they call "stand by equipment." It really just waited there unless the President died or something. A few things. You go to funerals. That was a big thing. But we what, did what we call "execuvize" the Vice President. I went into the West Wing, I worked with the President, around the clock, for four solid years. That's a new pattern that I think has really been good every later vice president has done. Joe Biden is doing a great job of it now.

ROBACH: Well we certainly appreciated it. It was, it's a fantastic read. The book is The Good Fight. Walter Mondale, thanks so much for being with us, this morning.

MONDALE: Thanks a lot.

-Geoffrey Dickens is the Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here