Geraldine Ferraro And Anne Wexler Kicked Ass

Most obituaries of Geraldine Ferraro this weekend recounted a key moment in her political career:  her vice presidential debate against George H.W. Bush.

Writing on blog, Ben W. Heineman Jr. recalls the question on everyone’s mind:

How would she, a three-term member of Congress, stand up against the man who had been ambassador to China and the U.N, headed the CIA, and for the previous four years served as vice president of the United States?

The only one not worried was the Democratic vice presidential candidate herself.  She soon impressed her boss — Walter Mondale — and his staff with her preparation work.

Anne Wexler

Part of that preparation was guided by Anne Wexler.  Two decades earlier she’d been a member of Westport’s Zoning Board of Appeals.  But she was galvanized by Vietnam, and quickly became a powerful figure in national politics.

In 1972 she was a driving force in changing rules that opened the Democratic party to its current primary system.  Later she became a senior advisor to President Carter.

By 1984 she was a highly respected political consultant.  That’s when the Mondale campaign asked her to help Ferraro get ready for the vice presidential debate:  a crucial test on the national stage.

According to Heineman, “Ferraro’s self-confidence was well-founded. With poise, humor and substance, she went toe-to-toe with the vice president for 90 minutes.”

Heineman adds:

Afterwards, instant polls showed the debate a draw, and that was the view of many other commentators.  But a draw for a three-term congresswoman against someone with Bush’s vaunted resume…..

The most famous line of the debate, of course, was Geraldine Ferraro’s.  The vice president began an answer by saying:  “Let me help you with the difference, Ms. Ferraro, between Iran and the embassy in Lebanon.”

To which the first woman national candidate in American history replied: “Let me first of all say that I almost resent, Vice President Bush, your patronizing attitude that you have to teach me about foreign policy.”  This was the debate clip shown the day after — and to this day.

After  the debate was over, Vice President Bush remarked into a still open mic that he had “kicked a little ass.”  Given the expectations before the debate, I felt, along with so many others, that it was actually the other way round.

And it was another powerful woman — Westport’s Anne Wexler — who helped deliver that kick.

George H.W. Bush and Geraldine Ferraro before their vice presidential debate. (Photo: AP/Gene J. Puskar)

5 responses to “Geraldine Ferraro And Anne Wexler Kicked Ass

  1. Nice blog, Dan. Geraldine Ferraro was responsible for the Country growing up a little more, and making women feel prouder. And thanks for the nice words about my high school classmate and good friend, Anne Levy Wexler Duffy.
    History is yet to show just how bright, intuitive and influential she was. She and Joe had a second home on Sanibel Island, not far below us on the Florida Gulf Coast. Bunni and I had a date to meet them for dinner. She had been weakened by her treatments but felt she was up for it. She called to “postpone” and passed away four days later.

  2. The Dude Abides

    Nice article and comment from Gary. I am not so sure ’41 was the bullying type though as depicted. Barbara kept him within his own ego. Would have been nice to see John Glenn at the head of that ticket in ’84 though. Reagan was beatable that year but not with Mondale. Geraldine/Anne deserved a better racehorse.

  3. Ditto for incumbent.