Mondale critical of vice president

Associated Press
Panelists and a moderator sit on stage on the first day of the Carter conference, in Athens, Ga.

ATHENS, Ga. - Vice President Dick Cheney has bullied federal agencies and given absurd advice about the nation's risk and Iraq, Walter Mondale said Friday, adding that never would have been tolerated when he was vice president.


"I think that Cheney has stepped way over the line," Mr. Mondale said.

Mr. Mondale, who was vice president under former President Jimmy Carter, made the comments at a three-day conference about Mr. Carter's term that opened Friday at the University of Georgia.

Mr. Mondale said Mr. Cheney and his assistants pressured federal agencies as they prepared information for President Bush. Mr. Mondale, who served as ambassador to Japan from 1993-96 under President Clinton, leads the Asia Law Practice Group of Minneapolis-based law firm Dorsey & Whitney.

"I think Cheney's been at the center of cooking up farcical estimates of national risks, weapons of mass destruction and the 9-11 connection to Iraq," he said.

Mr. Mondale said that does not serve the president, because the nation's leader needs facts.

"If I had done as vice president what this vice president has done, Carter would have thrown me out of there," Mr. Mondale said.

"I don't think he could have tolerated a vice president over there pressuring and pushing other agencies, ordering up different reports than they wanted to send us. I don't think he would have stood for it."

Lea Anne McBride, a spokeswoman for Mr. Cheney, had this response Friday to Mr. Mondale's comments: "Twice elected to serve with President Bush, the vice president is committed to protecting Americans from those who wish to do us harm."

She also cited a September television interview in which the vice president said he would take issue with "any suggestion we've gone beyond where we should have."

Stuart Eizenstat, the former chief domestic affairs adviser to Mr. Carter, said Mr. Cheney's - and Mr. Mondale's actions before him - are not in a vacuum because a vice president "cannot become too strong unless the president permits that."

Under Mr. Carter, Mr. Mondale enjoyed much broader responsibilities as vice president than his predecessors.

"Because of his own inexperience in Washington, he wanted someone with experience who would be his senior adviser," Mr. Eizenstat said of Mr. Carter.

Mr. Mondale moved his office to the West Wing of the White House, held private luncheons once a week with the president and represented him before influential groups, such as labor officials and leaders of the black and Jewish communities.

"Under Carter I became the first vice president in the chain of command; that had never happened before," Mr. Mondale said.