Former vice president Walter F. Mondale said yesterday that he would consider naming a woman as his running mate if nominated for president in 1984 and would appoint record numbers of women to high government positions if elected.
"I want to be the president who finally breaks the ice on justice for women in this country," Mondale said in a speech here to the Americans for Democratic Action, a bastion of the liberal establishment.
"I want to bring women into positions of power like they've never been before, not just to do something for women, but for the first time really let women have the power to do something along with the rest of us to help our government," he said.
Mondale said the most important criterion for a vice president would be "is that person qualified to be president . . . . " In making such a selection, he added, "you cannot limit your search to white males."
Mondale's remarks came one day after Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.), one of his rivals for the nomination, told the ADA that the Democratic Party won't be able to capitalize on President Reagan's problems with female voters unless it stops treating women "as one more constituency to be placated."
Hart said the party "must share the blame" for defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment, failure to elect a Democratic woman to the Senate and widespread pay inequities between the sexes. Mondale said as president he would resubmit the ERA for ratification and enforce laws against discrimination, something he said Reagan hasn't done.
"There are other ways in which a president can contribute and that is by who he honors and how he speaks," Mondale said. "I think one of the biggest burdens for women in our country and for all who believe in justice for women is the snickering and the jokes and the derision that is spilled out across the land by public leaders of insensitivity."
Mondale didn't name any particular incident, but earlier in his speech he said Barbara Honegger's resignation from the Justice Department after labeling Reagan's programs for women a "sham" had revealed the administration's real feelings toward women.
Mondale said Reagan's views of women are part of a larger philosophy that he dubbed "social Darwinism--where only the fittest and richest survive." Under this philosophy, there has been a "retreat from trying to protect senior citizens, from educating our children, helping the handicapped, helping the unemployed, and reaching out to lighten the burden of Americans who are overwhelmed by problems beyond their reach," he said.
Mondale also criticized Reagan's Central American policy, which, he said, "deemphasizes land reform and support for democratic institutions" and encourages extremism on both sides, lessening the chances of a peaceful settlement.