Saturday, March 26, 2011

Geraldine Ferraro is dead at 75.

Geraldine Ferraro — who was a prosecutor in Queens, then a House Representative, then a United Nations Ambassador, yet will go down in history for her unsuccessful run as the first woman on a major-party presidential ticket — died today at 75.

Perhaps Ferraro's strongest moment was in the 1984 vice-presidential debate between Ferraro and then-Vice President (future-President) George H.W. Bush, when she rebuked Bush for patronizingly purporting to "teach" or "help" her with foreign policy (Ferraro's and Bush's verb choices, respectively):

Here's video of the full debate. To see that exchange in context, watch Ferraro's initial comments on foreign policy starting at 46:30, Bush's rebuttal at 49:00, and Ferraro's response from about 50:00 to 51:00. (Transcript.)

The New York Times obituary (the second link above) notes that this was the first time "a major candidate for national office talked about abortion with the phrase 'If I were pregnant.'" (You can see this in the video, the first time she speaks.) The Times says:

The abortion issue, magnified because she was Roman Catholic and a woman, plagued her campaign. Though she opposed the procedure personally, she said, others had the right to choose for themselves. Abortion opponents hounded her at almost every stop with an intensity seldom experienced by male politicians.
More from the Times:
Everywhere people were adjusting — or manifestly not adjusting — to a woman on a national ticket. Mississippi’s agriculture secretary called Ms. Ferraro “young lady” and asked if she could bake blueberry muffins. When a Roman Catholic bishop gave a news conference in Pennsylvania, he repeatedly referred to the Republican vice-presidential nominee as “Mr. Bush” and to the Democratic one as “Geraldine.” . . .

“I am the first to admit that were I not a woman, I would not have been the vice-presidential nominee,” she wrote. But she insisted that her presence on the ticket had translated into votes that the ticket might otherwise have not received.

In any event, she said, the political realities of 1984 had made it all but impossible for the Democrats to win, no matter the candidates or their gender. “Throwing Ronald Reagan out of office at the height of his popularity, with inflation and interest rates down, the economy moving and the country at peace, would have required God on the ticket,” Ms. Ferraro wrote, “and She was not available!”