Former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey’s memoir is excerpted in this week’s New York magazine.
I was prepared to warm to the guy. However self-serving his initial reasons for coming out as he did may have been, McGreevey’s had nearly two years to do some hard thinking since then; and there’s nothing we Americans like more than a redemption story. Also, I’m not really worried about whether, in general, McGreevey will do good work for the causes that employ him from here on; it seems almost certain that he will.
But a good portion of the gay press has been touting him as a potentially worthy and worthwhile public representative for our interests. My sense–and I’m just going by the New York excerpt here–is still that we can do better. This is how McGreevey describes the beginning of his affair with then-aide Golan Cipel (or alleged affair, since Cipel denies that anything beyond sexual harassment by McGreevey ever happened between them):
It was wrong to do. I wasn’t an ordinary citizen anymore. There were state troopers parked outside. My wife was in the hospital. And he was my employee. But I took Golan by the hand and led him upstairs to my bed.
My core group of supporters still felt [when the scandal was about to break because of Cipel's threatened lawsuit] I should serve out my term, but not run for reelection. I wasn’t convinced that was penance enough for my transgressions. What I did was not just foolish, but unforgivable. Hiring a lover on state payroll, no matter the gender, was wrong. I needed to take my punishment—and to begin my healing out of the fishbowl of politics.
Having sex with state troopers outside? Hot!
Uh, I mean, the logic of that first paragraph eludes me. I can see the point about its being a betrayal of voters’ trust to court scandal just when you’ve ascended to the job they elected you to do. I’m not sure whether cheating on your unwitting wife is worse when she’s in the hospital, but her having just borne your child would certainly make it more difficult to leave you if she decided to do so. And no, one should not be propositioning employees, who may not feel in a position to refuse without repercussions.
It remains difficult to shake the feeling that McGreevey sees his coming out as a way to spin potential political and legal lemons into lemonade–a convenient opportunity to start a less pained and stressed-out life but not a moral or ethical necessity. He has an interesting way of using the word integrated to refer to “not feeding different people different lies to get what you want from each of them,” but one is left wondering whether he thinks that approach is good and right or just eats up less space on his BlackBerry. And as for his “punishment,” well…the gay political machine may not get you into the White House, but it’s powerful enough in liberal circles in the Mid-Atlantic to be a good place for a soft landing from the governorship of New Jersey. Especially if the alternative is a costly sexual harassment suit.
Homosexuality isn’t a club, and the guy is clearly as gay as the rest of us. We own him now. I’m just not sure why we’re exhorted to be proud of him.
Added on 20 September: Joe has, if anything, more apserity to direct at McGreevey’s public grandstanding than I did. He begins by quoting an AP story:
Once publicly opposed to gay marriage, former New Jersey Governor James E. McGreevey now says he spoke out against the idea as a way to keep his homosexuality hidden.
“I did not want to be identified as being gay, and it was the safe place to be,” McGreevey said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press. “I wanted to embrace the antagonist. I wanted to be against it. That’s the absurdity.”
No, the absurdity is the fame, fortune and acceptance he’s getting for his despicable, craven, cowardly and profoundly immoral behavior.
I disagree with Joe that McGreevey is a good example of justifiable outing. There’s no evidence that he expected to use his power to circumvent the law against gay marriage he supported. The man went so far as to marry two women, after all.
I do find the use of the word absurd very interesting, implying as it does that McGreevey’s conduct was irrational. Poor thing, he wasn’t quite thinking clearly, et c. (Chris at Gay Orbit seems as aghast as Joe, but he also implicitly labels McGreevey’s actions “crazy.”) In fact, opposing gay marriage was an eminently sensible, reasonable, even inevitable move for someone who’d made the conscious decision to place his highest priority on fulfilling his lust for political power. McGreevey himself acknowledges as much later in the article, saying, “I was proud to be against gay marriage because that’s where I thought a majority of New Jerseyans were. That’s successful politics.” One wonders whether this joker has any deep convictions at all.