Former Vice President Walter F. Mondale (search) said Sunday that the strong role Vice President Dick Cheney (search) has taken in the White House is changing the way government and politics work.

"This is going to be an issue in the campaign, and it will be an issue for political scientists," Mondale said in an interview following a press conference. "This is starting to bend the political process."

Mondale, 76, was invited to southern Oregon to speak to a community forum serving as a fund-raiser for the Selma Community and Education Center. About 300 people attended.

Mondale served as vice president from 1977 to 1981 under President Jimmy Carter and was defeated as the Democratic presidential candidate running against President Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Mondale noted in a press conference that he was the first vice president to take a strong role in the executive branch, and said every vice president since has built on that model.

Cheney, however, has taken the power of the office to a new level, operating, in effect, with his own National Security Council (search), Mondale said.

"The vice president has been very direct with other officers in pursuing what he thinks is the right course in national security and other areas," Mondale said. "What I think is wrong with that, is when others hear him talk like that they think the president is behind it. So it sort of chills the kind of vibrant discussion that we need for an open, balanced operation of the federal government.

"Carter would never have tolerated me doing that, and most presidents wouldn't tolerate, because it undermines the capacity of the president to hear it."

A call to Cheney's office in Washington, D.C., went unanswered Sunday night.