Monday, March 28, 2011

Geraldine Ferraro

I never met Geraldine Ferraro, but I came close.

By now, you know Ferraro died over the weekend.  She was 75.

Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman ever on a major party presidential ticket.  She made a campaign appearance in downtown Scranton in the fall of '84.  I was on the radio back then, part of WARM 590'S "team coverage."  One of my co-workers, Kitch Loftus, handled the actual speech.  My job was street reaction and the news conference Bishop James Timlin gave later in the day.

Ferraro was pro choice, and that angered the bishop.  He called a news conference to let everyone know about it.  Some of the national media that covered Ferraro stuck around, and made the short trip up Wyoming Avenue to visit the bishop.  It wasn't pretty.  Timlin seemed uncomfortable mixing religion and politics.  Some network reporters, including Phil Jones of CBS, seized on that.  The out of town media were relentless.  I didn't think it was the bishop's finest hour.  Bishop Timlin is a nice, charming and charismatic man, whether or not you agree with him  That news conference just didn't work.  It wasn't the right forum.  The bishop's message was lost.

The Scranton visit should have been a slam dunk win.  Geraldine Ferraro, an Italian woman in an area filled with Italians, down to earth, Democrat.  The pro lifers were out in force.  Their protest wasn't handled well by the Mondale/Ferraro people.  They were completely overwhelmed.  It turned out to be just another misstep in the Mondale campaign.

What I also remember about '84 was the Mondale vice presidential selection process.  He seemed to interview everyone, including minorities, and some people you knew would never be on the ticket.  It looked and smelled like pandering.  Voters saw right through it.

The Ferraro choice was an interesting one.  Mondale was always behind in the polls.  Picking Ferraro brought some heat and excitement to the ticket.  It also brought some controversy, especially the deep examination of the finances of Ferraro's husband.

In the end, Mondale/Ferraro won only Minnesota and the District of Columbia.  I don't think any other vice presidential candidate could have helped.  America loved Ronald Reagan, and he captured nearly 59 per cent of the popular vote.

After she left the house, Ferraro did some political punditry, and she was very good.  Forceful, able to make a point without being excessively wordy.

As we look back, Geraldine Ferraro's visit was one of the events that cemented northeastern Pennsylvania's reputation as the pro life capitol of the world.