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Remembering Geraldine Ferraro, First Female Major Ticket VP Candidate

March 28, 2011 at 6:28 PM EST
Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman to run as a vice-presidential nominee on a major party ticket, died Saturday at age 75 after a long struggle with multiple myeloma. Gwen Ifill has an excerpt from a 1984 vice presidential debate with then-Vice President George H.W. Bush plus a later interview with Jim Lehrer about that debate.
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GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight, remembering Geraldine Ferraro.

The former Democratic vice presidential nominee died Saturday, after a long struggle with multiple myeloma. She was a congresswoman from New York when Walter Mondale tapped her as his running mate in 1984. It made her the first female vice presidential candidate on a major party ticket in U.S. history.

In a nationally televised debate in October 1984, she faced then Vice President George H.W. Bush. What began as an exchange about foreign policy ended up being about much more.

Here’s a portion of that debate.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, former vice president: I think I just heard Mrs. Ferraro say that she would do away with all covert action.

And if so, that has very serious ramifications, as the intelligence community knows. This is serious business. And sometimes, it’s quiet support for a friend. And so I will leave that one there.

But let me help you with the difference, Mrs. Ferraro, between Iran and the embassy in Lebanon. Iran, we were held by a foreign government. In Lebanon, you had a wanton terrorist action where the government opposed it.

GERALDINE FERRARO (D), vice presidential nominee: 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.

(APPLAUSE)

GERALDINE FERRARO: I have been a member of Congress for six years. I was there when the embassy was held hostage in Iran. And I have been there and I have seen what has happened in the past several months, 17 months with your administration.

Secondly, please don’t categorize my answers either. Leave the interpretation of my answers to the American people who are watching this debate.

GWEN IFILL: Jim Lehrer asked Ferraro about that moment in 1990 during an interview for the PBS series “Debating Our Destiny.”

Here’s an excerpt.

JIM LEHRER: Did you have a strategy designed to show up George Bush in any negative way?

GERALDINE FERRARO: We had prepared, or I — my staff had prepared for me a whole dossier, virtually, on George Bush, on his votes, on his record, on what he had done over the last number of years in public service.

And, actually, my goal was not to go at him. His resume was pretty impressive. It wasn’t in any way an attempt to affect to hurt him in anyway, as it was an attempt by me to show the people who I was.

I was dealing with it from a much more positive viewpoint. I was distressed when, during the course of the debate, I had to turn around with that one-liner about, you know, you’re patronizing me.

I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to scold. I didn’t want to tell him that he wasn’t dealing with me as an equal. I didn’t want to have to do that. I wanted just focus on me, and I didn’t want to give any sort of a negative impression to anybody that was watching.

JIM LEHRER: Was that line a rehearsed line?

GERALDINE FERRARO: Absolutely not, no. And it was — I was forced into it. I was forced into it because he wanted to — he was trying to teach me about foreign policy. And that was a putdown.

I readily admit I was not an expert on foreign policy. But I was knowledgeable. And I didn’t need a man who was president and — vice president of the United States and my opponent turning around and putting me down.

GWEN IFILL: That was Democratic vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro speaking to Jim Lehrer in 1990.

Ferraro died Saturday in Boston. She was 75 years old.