Ferraro: Now and Then

As you know, Geraldine Ferraro quit Clinton’s finance committee today with a letter to the Clinton campaign:

“I am stepping down from your finance committee so I can speak for myself and you can continue to speak for yourself about what is at stake in this campaign,” Ferraro wrote in a letter to Clinton.

“The Obama campaign is attacking me to hurt you. I won’t let that happen.”

She was unrepentant, arrogant, and a victim all at once.

Poor thing.

It’s interesting though, to take a trip back in time to read Lewis Lapham’s words about Ferraro’s memoir of her 1984 vice presidential campaign in the December, 1985 issue of Harper’s Magazine (subscription required):

Like most politicians who write self-serving memoirs, Ferraro blames as many other people as possible for her own failures. Mondale condescended to her; the sexists (mostly Republicans or insensitive newspaper reporters) didn’t take her seriously as a woman; Archbishop John O’Connor misrepresented her attitude toward abortion; bigots hated her because she was Italian, and her husband, the otherwise wonderful, supportive John Zaccaro forgot to tell her that he had been doing business with criminals. Newsweek published an abridged text of roughly 12,000 words, but over the full length of the book, I’m sure that Ferraro manages to nominate at least twenty additional individuals or historical accidents to her catalogue of recriminations.

The most grotesque aspect of this memoir is its tone. The writing attests to a mind complacently devoid of wisdom, skepticism, or humor.


Her jaunty egoism makes of the campaign the equivalent of a course in macrame or aerobic dancing. She is incapable of discovering even the tiniest flaw in her perfection, and it never occurs to her that voters in the hundreds of thousands might have failed to find her plausible because they saw her as a hack politician married to a real estate operator under criminal investigation.

Wow. I have loved Lapham’s writing for many years, but in this case his judgment of Ferraro’s character is supreme.

The major problem I saw in this whole flap was not so much the words of her first statement, but rather the lack of regret that her words could possibly be taken the wrong way. She seemed oblivious to any interpretation of why her words might be thought to be hurtful. And then to top it off, she later said:

“I really think they’re attacking me because I’m white. How’s that?”

I’ll tell you how it is Mrs. Ferraro: Lapham’s words about you seem even more accurate now than they did 23 years ago.


5 responses to “Ferraro: Now and Then

  1. For chrissakes, how did the American people become so gullible? This has nothing to do with Ferraro or Obama. Geraldine Ferraro did this for the Clinton campaign. She sacrificed her good name for the Clinton branding machine, like a suicide bomber (but with words). It’s a con game. The way the game works, Clinton now distances herself from Ferraro, the same way that Bush distanced himself from Swift Boat Veterans for “Truth.”

    What they wanted to do, and succeeded in doing, was to plant negative marketing points about Obama in the minds of gullible Democrats, subconsciously.

    Whether Ferraro is damaged or seen as racist is completely beside the point. The point is that she sacrificed her good name in the service of the Clinton spin machine – the same machine that wants you to think that some states matter more than others because they cherry-pick them; the same machine that creates issues about Obama out of thin air because they want to win at all costs regardless of the damage it does to the party or the nation. It’s slash and burn.

    Now, do we really want someone so ruthless, so out of control as our next president?? Or do we want someone more sensible, consistent, and steady? Someone like, I dunno… Maybe Senator Obama?

    Americans! Wake up and stop falling for marketing tricks!

  2. Nothing the Clinton campaign does is accidental. On this one, they could remind some working-class white people of why they resent African Americans (the perception that black people have it easy) without actually doing it themselves. They had a high-profile surrogate do it, so the issue would get attention, but getting rid of Ferraro would not be a big deal.

  3. Exactly. You said it so much more elegantly. What pains me is that it works. So depressing. Why do we accept Democrats who swiftboat Democrats?

  4. I agree – nothing the Clintons do is accidental. They are phenomenally bright and calculating people. Further, the Clintons have a long and storied history of having surrogates do their dirty work.

    I’m uncertain why the Obama camp isn’t making better use of surrogates – not for the mud-slinging, but for making legitimate points that need to be raised. The biggest: the release of the Clinton tax returns. Were I David Axelrod, I would send surrogates out and tell them to do nothing but hammer home the tax return issue.

  5. Good question on Obama’s use of surrogates. I think he has some of the best. McCaskill, Napolitano, Kerry, Bradley and others should be in front of the media every day to dismiss the Clinton campaign’s illogical nonsense.

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