August 12, 2004
But that all came to a screeching halt today when New Jersey experienced its biggest news since Bruce got back together with the E Street Band (or at least since Adriana got whacked): the shocking simultaneous coming out and resignation of Governor Jim McGreevey.
Now, it wasn't so much the resignation itself that was shocking; for months, McGreevey has been dodging scandal after scandal, the most damaging including an alleged shakedown of a Piscataway dairy farmer, with the Governor recorded on audiotape uttering apparent "the fix is in" code words, and a more recent situation where Charles Kushner, his confidant and biggest campaign contributor allegedly hired a $25,000 hooker to seduce and compromise his brother-in-law, who was planning to testify against him in a federal investigation.
And those are just the highlights. So when I heard via TM from the aforementioned Mike Wolf (I was at the Mets game) that McGreevey was planning to announce his resignation, I assumed it was related to some of the above. And then McGreevey announced his reasons for his resignation, effective November 15:
At a point in every person's life, one has to look deeply into the mirror of one's soul and decide one's unique truth in the world, not as we may want to see it or hope to see it, but as it is. And so my truth is that I am a gay American.Jeff Jarvis is right; it was a remarkable speech. I've gotten a few calls and e-mails from non-NJers basically wanting to know what the hell was wrong with us. He has to retire just because he's gay? Aren't we a progressive state?
[...] I am also here today because, shamefully, I engaged in adult consensual affair with another man, which violates my bonds of matrimony. It was wrong. It was foolish. It was inexcusable. [...] Given the circumstances surrounding the affair and its likely impact upon my family and my ability to govern, I have decided the right course of action is to resign.
Of course, the reasons for his resignation have more to do with the "circumstances surrounding the affair" than the affair itself. The "Breaking News" weblog on NJ.com reports that the affair was with "Golan Cipel, an Israeli poet who worked briefly for the governor as a homeland security adviser despite having no security experience." The hiring of Cipel for the $100,000 job was especially controversial, and Cipel was soon shifted to a less-prominent post (the vague "counselor to the governor") after it was learned that McGreevey had exaggerated his credentials. This story obviously makes a lot more sense after today's revelations, though it's still a measure of McGreevey's poor political instincts that the high-paying gift job he gave his lover was in perhaps the highest-profile area of his administration.
According to several McGreevey administration sources, the situation came to a head recently when Cipel demanded millions of dollars, threatening a sexual harassment lawsuit if the money wasn't paid. This appears to have been the triggering event that led to today's announcement and resignation. And while only a complete political cynic (say, my dad), would deny that this was a difficult day for McGreevey, it doesn't take too much imagination to see it as at least a better-case scenario.
McGreevey's term very possibly was heading towards a premature ending one way or another. And while none of those ways could be completely positive, at least as of now he may be remembered as a noble and representative figure, or even a victim of prejudice. One rest-stop visitor was quoted as saying, "It's a shame. He brought a lot of passion to the governor's office, but the fact is that it's not accepted in today's society, and he's paying the consequences." I'm pretty sure that the "it's" in that sentence isn't referring to giving your lover an undeserved job, or encouraging bribes, or associating with hooker-hiring blackmailers. And, of course, we'll never know if his homosexuality would have been accepting without any of the accompanying "consequences." That might have been the biggest loss of the day.
Though his hand was forced, this may have been McGreevey's only chance to leave office on anything approaching positive terms. Heck, 20 years from now people might remember him being forced out of office for his sexual preferences, breaking ground for future gay major political leaders. He might end up as a kind of folk hero, with all the negative facts lost and forgotten along the way. So while it's true that what McGreevey said and did today was, as Jeff Jarvis wrote, remarkable and painfully personal. It was also many other things, most nearly not as brave.
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