In July his troubles made page one because he was the spouse of a would-be vice president of the United States. In January his troubles made page one because he was the spouse of a might-be candidate for the U.S. Senate.
John Zaccaro is not wrong in asserting that his business life was given "microscopic attention" because of his wife's political life. Nor is Ferraro wrong in describing this "difficult period" in her husband's life as "stemming from my historic candidacy."
As they say, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not after you. And just because they're hounding you, doesn't mean you aren't guilty.
John Zaccaro pleaded guilty finally to his part in a scheme for getting financing for a real-estate deal. The deal never went through, and, as the district attorney said, "Nobody got hurt." So his wife can be forgiven for calling it a "judgmental error." But it was at best a sleazy business and, more to the point, illegal.
Of course, the public interest in Zaccaro's plea did not dwell on real-estate ethics or his business future. He was in the spotlight only because of the shadow he cast over his wife. It has been widely believed that Ferraro will run against Republican Alfonse D'Amato in 1986 for his New York Senate seat. So the gossip, both on and off the newspaper pages, centered on "What will this mean for Gerry's career?" Is the contender now a goner?
The question was put to the politicians, and their answers varied according to their good will, political persuasion and temperament. But the sum of all the answers adds up to this one: "It's too soon to tell." In the editorial vernacular: "This situation bears watching."
But there's something else in this situation that bears watching -- Geraldine Ferraro. There is an assumption in all of this political bookmaking that Ferraro puts her political future at the focal point of this family affair. We talk as if she is as politically myopic as we, and any damage to her political career would be personally devastating.
As an observer from the middle distance, I don't see it that way. Rather, I don't see her that way. One of the things that was most appealing about Ferraro during the campaign was that she retained her sense of personal balance. She grew during this time, but she didn't grow out of herself.
She remained mother, wife, daughter and woman as well as candidate. Loyal as well as ambitious. She didn't carry clean laundry to her kids on the trail for the publicity but for the perspective. She didn't go home weekends for rest as much as for roots. She didn't do the grocery shopping to attract the woman's vote, but to retain her own sense of reality.
This was a campaign that would challenge anybody's stability. If her strength was tested during the debates and travel and speeches, it was equally tested by the gratuitous newspaper revelations about her parents. There were nights when the hardest phone call to make was not to Mondale, but to her family. On the whole, Ferraro kept her wits about her and kept her priorities in order and came out of the whole business intact.
My sense of Ferraro is of someone strikingly sane. Even in the crazy environment of a national campaign she was a natural, as good on the trail as anyone I've ever seen. She thinks in politics. She fits in public life. But her self-image doesn't depend entirely on a title, whether it is representative or vice president or senator. Her future doesn't hang solely on the thin line of voters.
Maybe that's a value of surviving a tough childhood. Maybe that's a value of having been a homemaker as well as lawyer as well as politician. Mahat's the value of values. It's easier to balance on a broader base.
I don't suggest that Ferraro would bow out of politics happily and change careers as easily as others change clothes. It would be a high price to pay for whatever her candidacy cost her family. And I don't think she'll have to pay it. The woman is tenacious and popular; the husband's guilt is a misdemeanor; time passes.
But let the politicians figure the odds: Can she or can't she run for the Senate? Spare us the personal obituaries. There's more to Gerry Ferraro's life than politics, and this lady doesn't croak quite so easily.