Saturday, March 26, 2011

Remembering Geraldine Anne Ferraro

Here Geraldine Ferraro with Vice-President George Herbert Walker Bush in the Vice-President debate of 1984

Here she is with former Vice-President/Senator Walter Mondale in the presidential election of 1984

Geraldine Anne Ferraro: Madam, you were truly an inspiring woman in the world of politics. You will be missed and you will be remembered as the first woman and first Italian-American to run on a major party national ticket, thank you for being part of USA history especially presidential history, may you rest in peace!

Geraldine Anne Ferraro (August 26, 1935 – March 26, 2011) was an American attorney, a Democratic Party politician and a member of the United States House of Representatives. She was the first female Vice Presidential candidate representing a major American political party.

Ferraro grew up in New York City and became a teacher and lawyer. She joined the Queens County District Attorney's Office in 1974, where she headed the new Special Victims Bureau that dealt with sex crimes, child abuse, and domestic violence. She was elected to Congress in 1978, where she rose rapidly in the party hierarchy while focusing on legislation to bring equity for women in the areas of wages, pensions, and retirement plans.

In 1984, former Vice President and presidential candidate Walter Mondale selected Ferraro to be his running mate in the upcoming election. In doing so she became the only Italian American to be a major-party national nominee in addition to being the first woman. The positive polling the Mondale-Ferarro ticket received when she joined faded as questions about her and her husband's finances arose. In the general election, Mondale and Ferraro were defeated in a landslide by incumbent President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H. W. Bush.

Ferraro ran campaigns for a seat in the United States Senate from New York in 1992 and 1998, both times emerging as the front-runner for her party's nomination but losing in primary elections both times. She served as a United States Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights from 1993 until 1996, in the presidential administration of Bill Clinton. She also continued her career as a journalist, author, and businesswoman, and served in the 2008 presidential campaign of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Ferraro died on March 26, 2011, after a 12-year battle with multiple myeloma.

1984 Vice-Presidential candidacy
As the 1984 U.S. presidential election primary season wound down and Walter Mondale became the likely Democratic nominee, the idea of picking a woman as his vice-presidential running mate gained considerable momentum. The National Organization for Women and the National Women's Political Caucus pushed the notion, as did several top Democratic figures such as Speaker O'Neill. Women mentioned for the role included Ferraro and Mayor of San Francisco Dianne Feinstein,[49] both of whom were on Mondale's five-person short list.

She stated, "I am absolutely thrilled." The Mondale campaign hoped that her selection would change a campaign in which he was well behind; in addition to attracting women, they hoped she could attract ethnic Democrats in the Northeast U.S. who had abandoned their party for Reagan in 1980. In turn, Mondale accepted the risk that came with her inexperience.

As Ferraro was the first woman to run on a major party national ticket in the U.S.,and the first Italian American, her July 19 nomination at the 1984 Democratic National Convention was one of the most emotional moments of that gathering, with female delegates appearing joyous and proud at the historic occasion.

In her acceptance speech, Ferraro said, "The daughter of an immigrant from Italy has been chosen to run for vice president in the new land my father came to love." Convention attendees were in tears during the speech, not just for its significance for women but for all those who had immigrated to America.

A flyer advertised a post-convention Queens Borough Hall rally, for Ferraro to introduce Mondale to New York City voters.Ferraro gained immediate, large-scale media attention.

At first, their treatment centered on her novelty as a woman and her poor background, and was overwhelmingly favorable. Nevertheless, Ferraro would face many press questions about her foreign policy inexperience, and responded by discussing her attention to foreign and national security issues in Congress.

She faced a threshold of proving competence that other high-level female political figures have had to face, especially those who might become commander-in-chief; the question "Are you tough enough?" was often directed to her.

Ted Koppel questioned her closely about nuclear strategy and during Meet the Press she was asked, "Do you think that in any way the Soviets might be tempted to try to take advantage of you simply because you are a woman?"

The choice of Ferraro was viewed as a gamble, and pundits were uncertain whether it would result in a net gain or loss of votes for the Mondale campaign. In the days after the convention, Ferraro proved an effective campaigner, with a brash and confident style that forcefully criticized the Reagan administration and sometimes almost overshadowed Mondale. Mondale had been 16 points behind Reagan in polls before the pick, and after the convention he pulled even for a short time.

By the last week of July, however, questions—due initially to reporting by The New York Times—began about Ferraro's finances, the finances of her husband, John Zaccaro, and their separately filed tax returns. While the Mondale campaign had anticipated some questions, it had only spent 48 hours on Ferraro's family's finances.

This was also the first time the American media had to deal with a national candidate's husband. Ferraro said she would release both their returns within a month, but maintained she was correct not to have included her husband's financial holdings on her past annual Congressional disclosure statements. The media also reported on the FEC's past investigation into Ferraro's 1978 campaign funds.

Although Ferraro and Zaccaro's finances were often interwoven on paper, with the two equal partners in Zaccaro's company, Ferraro had little knowledge of his business, or even how much he was worth. Zaccaro did not appreciate the intensity of the national exposure the two were now in and was resistant to releasing his financial information.

On August 12, Ferraro announced that her husband would not in fact be releasing his tax returns, on the grounds that to do so would disadvantage his real estate business and that such a disclosure was voluntary and not part of election law. She joked, "You people who are married to Italian men, you know what it's like", angering fellow Italian Americans.

This development dominated television and newspapers;[68] Ferraro was besieged by questions regarding the finances as well as criticism for ethnic stereotyping. As she later wrote, "I had created a monster."

Republicans saw her finances as a "genderless" issue that they could attack Ferraro with without creating a backlash, and some Mondale staffers thought Ferraro might have to leave the ticket. The Philadelphia Inquirer went even further in its investigations, seeking to link Zaccaro to organized crime figures, but most publishers avoided this topic and law enforcement officials did not treat the allegations with much seriousness.

A week after her previous statement, Ferraro said Zaccaro had changed his mind and would indeed release his tax records, which was done on August 20. The full statements included notice of payment of some $53,000 in back federal taxes that she owed due to what was described as an accountant's error. Ferraro said the statements proved overall that she had nothing to hide and that there had been no financial wrongdoing.

The disclosures indicated that Ferraro and her husband were worth nearly $4 million, had a full-time maid, and owned a boat and two vacation homes. Much of their wealth was tied up in real estate rather than being disposable income, but the disclosures hurt Ferraro's image as a rags-to-riches story.

Ferraro's strong performance at an August 22 press conference covering the final disclosure—where she answered all questions for two hours—effectively ended the issue for the remainder of the campaign, but significant damage had been done.

No campaign issue during the entire 1984 presidential campaign received more media attention than Ferraro's finances. The exposure diminished Ferraro's rising stardom, removed whatever momentum the Mondale–Ferraro ticket gained out of the convention, and delayed formation of a coherent message for the fall campaign.

Ferraro was criticized by name by Cardinal John O'Connor, the Catholic Archbishop of New York, for misrepresenting the Catholic Church's position on abortion: that Catholics could disagree with Church teaching on abortion and remain faithful to its teaching.

That issue had her on the defensive during the entire campaign. Nevertheless, Ferraro resumed her role as a strong campaigner, taking on the traditional running mate role of attacking the opposition vigorously; she was criticized for saying that Reagan was not a "good Christian" because, Ferraro said, his policies hurt the poor. She drew large crowds who wanted to witness the historical candidate, and who chanted, "Ger-ry! Ger-ry!"

Mondale and Ferraro rarely touched during their appearances together, to the point that he would not even place his palm on her back when they stood side-by-side; Ferraro later said this was because anything more and "people were afraid that it would look like, 'Oh, my God, they're dating.'"

There was one vice-presidential debate between Congresswoman Ferraro and Vice President George H. W. Bush. Held on October 11, the result was proclaimed mostly even by the press and historians; women voters tended to think Ferraro had won, while men, Bush. At it, Ferraro criticized Reagan's initial refusal to support an extension to the Voting Rights Act.

Her experience was questioned at the debate and she was asked how her three terms in Congress stacked up with Bush's experience. To one Bush statement she said, "Let me just say first of all, that I almost resent, Vice President Bush, your patronizing attitude that you have to teach me about foreign policy."

She strongly defended her position on abortion, which earned her applause and a respectful reply from her opponent. In the days leading up to the debate, Second Lady of the United States Barbara Bush had publicly referred to Ferraro as "that four-million-dollar—I can't say it, but it rhymes with 'rich'."[81] Barbara Bush soon apologized. Ferraro's sex was a steady presence during the campaign; one study found that 27 percent of newspaper articles written about her contained gendered language.

On October 18 the New York Post accurately reported that her father had been arrested for possession of numbers slips in Newburgh shortly before his death, and inaccurately speculated that something mysterious had been covered up about that death. Ferraro's mother had never told her about his arrest, she had been also arrested as an accomplice but released after her husband's death. The printing of the story led Ferraro to state that Post publisher Rupert Murdoch "does not have the worth to wipe the dirt under [my mother's] shoes." Ferraro continued to campaign, by the end traveling more than Mondale and more than Reagan and Bush combined.

On November 6, Mondale and Ferraro lost the general election in a landslide. They received only 41 percent of the popular vote compared to Reagan and Bush's 59 percent, and in the Electoral College won only Mondale's home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia.

Ferraro failed to carry her own congressional district, which always tended to vote Republican in presidential races. Ferraro's presence on the ticket had little measurable effect overall. Reagan captured 55 percent of women voters, while of the 10 percent of voters who decided based on the vice-presidential candidates, 54 percent went to Mondale–Ferraro, establishing that Ferraro provided a net gain to the Democrats of 0.8 percent.

Reagan's personal appeal and campaign themes of prosperity and "It's morning again in America" were quite strong, and political observers generally agree that no combination of Democrats could have won the election in 1984. Mondale himself would later reflect that "I knew that I was in for it with Reagan" and that he had no regrets about choosing Ferraro.

After the election, the House Ethics Committee found that Ferraro had technically violated the Ethics in Government Act by failing to report, or reporting incorrectly, details of her family's finances, and that she should have reported her husband's holdings on her Congressional disclosure forms.

However, the committee concluded that she had acted without "deceptive intent", and since she was leaving Congress anyway, no action against her was taken. Ferraro said, "I consider myself completely vindicated."[92] The scrutiny of her husband and his business dealings presaged a trend that women candidates would face in American electoral politics.

Ferraro is one of only two U.S. women to run on a major party national ticket. The other is Alaska governor Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee,whose ticket also lost.

Death and tributes:
Ferraro continued to battle multiple myeloma, but died from complications of it on March 26, 2011, at Massachusetts General Hospital. In addition to her husband and children, she was survived by eight grandchildren.

President Obama said upon her passing that "Geraldine will forever be remembered as a trailblazer who broke down barriers for women, and Americans of all backgrounds and walks of life," and said that his own two daughters would grow up in a more equal country because of what Ferraro had done. Mondale called her "a remarkable woman and a dear human being ... She was a pioneer in our country for justice for women and a more open society. She broke a lot of molds and it's a better country for what she did."

George H. W. Bush said, "Though we were one-time political opponents, I am happy to say Gerry and I became friends in time – a friendship marked by respect and affection. I admired Gerry in many ways, not the least of which was the dignified and principled manner she blazed new trails for women in politics." Palin paid tribute to her on Facebook, saying, "She broke one huge barrier and then went on to break many more. May her example of hard work and dedication to America continue to inspire all women."

Bill and Hillary Clinton said in a statement that, "Gerry Ferraro was one of a kind – tough, brilliant, and never afraid to speak her mind or stand up for what she believed in – a New York icon and a true American original."

Ferraro, who shattered barrier for women as vice presidential nominee, dies at 75.By Douglas Martin THE NEW YORK TIMES

Published: 8:44 p.m. Saturday, March 26, 2011

Geraldine Ferraro, 75, the former congresswoman who in 1984 strode onto a podium to accept the Democratic nomination for vice president and to take her place in U.S. history as the first woman nominated for national office by a major party, died Saturday in Boston.

She died of complications from multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that she had battled for 12 years.

"If we can do this, we can do anything," Ferraro declared on a July evening to a cheering Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. And for a moment, for the Democratic Party and an untold number of women, anything seemed possible, including a woman occupying the second-highest office in the land.

It didn't turn out that way — not by a long shot. Walter Mondale and Ferraro were buried by an electoral landslide for President Ronald Reagan. But Ferraro's supporters proclaimed a victory of sorts nonetheless: 64 years after women won the right to vote, a woman had removed the "men only" sign from the White House door.

For the first time a major candidate for national office talked about abortion with the phrase "If I were pregnant," or about foreign policy with the personal observation "As the mother of a draft-age son \u2026\u2009"

It would be another 24 years before another woman from a major party was nominated for vice president — Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, the Republican running mate of Sen. John McCain in 2008. And though Hillary Clinton came close to the Democratic presidential nomination that year, a woman has yet to occupy the Oval Office. But Ferraro's ascendance gave many women heart.

Ann Richards, who was Texas state treasurer at the time and went on to become governor, once recalled that after the Ferraro nomination, "the first thing I thought of was not winning in the political sense, but of my two daughters."

"To think," Richards said, "of the numbers of young women who can now aspire to anything."

"Geraldine Ferraro was one of the great female role models of her generation," Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, said Saturday. "In politics, she was a trailblazer who helped make new heights of leadership possible for women. In her personal life, she courageously battled cancer with tenacity and grace."

Geraldine Anne Ferraro was born Aug. 26, 1935, in Newburgh, N.Y., where she was the fourth child and only daughter of Dominick Ferraro, an Italian immigrant who owned a restaurant and a five-and-dime store, and the former Antonetta Corrieri.

Her father died when she was 8. Brought up by a single mother who had crocheted beads on wedding dresses to send her daughter to good schools, Ferraro had waited until her own children were school age before going to work in a district attorney's office.

In 1973, after her cousin Nicholas Ferraro was elected Queens district attorney, she applied for and got a job as an assistant district attorney in charge of a special victims bureau, investigating rape, crimes against the elderly, and child and wife abuse.

The cases were so harrowing, she later wrote, that they caused her to develop an ulcer. The crime-breeding societal conditions she saw, she said, steered her to liberalism.

One night Mario Cuomo, who was New York lieutenant governor at the time, gave Ferraro and her husband a ride home from a bar mitzvah. She told him she was thinking of running for office. "What about Congress?" Cuomo asked.

She ran for and won her U.S. House seat in 1978, representing Queens, N.Y.

As Mondale's surprise choice for running mate in 1984, Ferraro rocketed to national prominence, propelled by feminist support, a spirited personality, canny political skills and the calculation by Democratic strategists that Reagan might be vulnerable on issues important to women. Mondale's campaign believed that she would do well not only among women but also among blue-collar workers.

Instead, the campaign was hounded by a barrage of questions about her family finances and the business dealings of her husband, John Zaccaro — often carrying insinuations of ties to organized crime — that not only blemished Ferraro's stature as the first Italian American national candidate but also diverted attention from other issues.

Ferraro was later ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Commission during the Clinton administration and co-host of the CNN program "Crossfire" from 1996 to 1998

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