Ferraro reflects

GERALDINE Ferraro is telling all, or at least a great deal, about her ill-fated vice-presidential campaign, and it is intriguing reading. Newsweek magazine is publishing extracts from her forthcoming book, ``Ferraro: My Story,'' and from them we learn some things we did not know before.

For instance, although Ms. Ferraro tried to bolster morale among her staff by singing snatches from ``Annie'' (``The sun'll come out tomorrow''), the ``futility of the quest'' for the White House became evident to her after the second presidential debate. Thereafter she began preparing her family for defeat and concentrating on the historical significance of her candidacy.

She thinks she handled the press poorly.

She relates extraordinary bickering with the Mondale camp before and after her selection as candidate. Before her selection, she had sharp words with presidential candidate Walter Mondale over leaks from his staff she believed were calculated to ``destroy'' her. She fumed over his inability to control his own staff.

After her selection, she resented the initially patronizing attitude of the Mondale camp, which again led to sharp words between Mr. Mondale and her. Particularly grating was that even six weeks after her nomination, the internal memos from the Mondale camp outlining the vice-presidential role continued to start with the pronoun ``he'' instead of ``she.''

There is anguished reflection over the furor over family finances. Ferraro says she had not known her husband borrowed money from an estate he had been appointed to handle. She did not know he had taken bad legal advice from a questionable source.

So wounding to her family were the revelations and accusations that at one point she knelt in prayer for strength simply to get through the campaign.

On top of all this came the confrontation between Ferraro, herself a Roman Catholic, and the Catholic archbishop of New York over her stand on abortion.

But there were lighter moments, too. The day after her nomination she found herself in Mondale's home, brushing her teeth in the bathroom, with a Mondale son.

One time in Alabama when her Secret Service guards could not open her hotel room door, she challenged them to shoot the lock off. Instead, they asked her if she could lend them a hairpin.

And there was the running argument about what a woman vice-presidential candidate should wear -- suits or dresses. Some thought suits would make her look more professional. Ferraro thought it would be phony to dress like an ``imitation man.'' Dresses and skirts carried the day.

As she ponders her political future -- perhaps a run against Alfonse D'Amato for a New York Senate seat -- she recognizes that to some women, particularly homemakers, she seems ``threatening.'' She says that is one reason she did the Pepsi commercial, endorsing ``choices'' and ``being a mother.''

There are flashes of paranoia in her retrospective look. It is hard to believe, as she charges, that never have so many people spent so much time and money trying to discredit the second person on a presidential ticket.

But insofar as Geraldine Ferraro is personally concerned, it is clear that she fought with great valor and fortitude a campaign that was ill-starred for much of its course.

In terms of politics it was a gigantic leap for women. Woman did not, as Ferraro puts it, vote in a ``mindless bloc,'' and it would be demeaning to them to think that they would. But Ferraro's candidacy broke for women the barrier against running for the highest office in the United States. Other countries have been ahead of Americans in this regard. Women have already held the top office in such countries as India, Sri Lanka, Israel, and Britain.

Thus, despite the stresses and sacrifices of the campaign, Geraldine Ferraro is assured a niche in history.

John Hughes is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who was assistant secretary of state from 1982 to 1984.

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