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Monday, August 16, 2004

A Novel Without A Hero

More than one person has asked me for my take on the resignation of New Jersey Governor James McGreevey.

It's a sad story, a Greek tragedy on a grand scale, where there appear to be no true heroes.

The press conference at which McGreevey announced he would be resigning was a brilliant move insofar as it made everyone focus on the fact that he's gay when that's not even really the reason he's resigning. It makes him look like he's standing up for something when he's really being pushed out for corruption. Would anyone show any sympathy for a married heterosexual governor who puts his unqualified mistress into a high-paying state job? I doubt it. Sexual orientation is not an excuse for this type of corruption, and apparently there is more to the corruption of McGreevey's administration than this lurid same-sex affair.

Of course, Golan Cipel doesn't come out of this looking so good. Here's a guy that was supposedly having an affair with the governor, and ends up with a cushy job (namely, being in charge of Homeland Security) for which he shouldn't be eligible. And now he's claiming that he's straight, and that he was the victim of sexual harassment. It's possible a straight man slept with a closeted gay man to advance his career. It's also possible he that would receive advances from that man but do what most straight men would do in such a case, namely, rebuff them. There's a number of possible scenarios here...
A. Cipel is gay, did have a love affair with McGreevey, who got him a job since when you love someone you do nice things for them. Then they broke up, and Cipel is trying to deny anything ever happened between them.
B. Cipel is gay, but had no interest in McGreevey other than what he could do for him. He used the attraction amother man felt for him to leverage himself into a cushy job.
C. Cipel isn't gay, but went along with McGreevey's advances anyway. Otherwise, identical to Scenarios A-B.
D. McGreevey made unwelcome advances, Cipel rebuffed them, and McGreevey tried to cover it up by offering Cipel a job.
E. Same as Scenario D, except that Cipel actively demanded the job.

Only under Scenario D is Cipel arguably not blameworthy, and even then that's assuming he's not behind the scenes trying to blackmail McGreevey into a big payoff. The fact that he's filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit doesn't reflect well on him.

I do feel a little empathy for McGreevey in one sense; in order to enter his chosen profession, he had to either live a lie from the beginning or slowly discover he was forcing himself to live a lie. And lest your response be, "Stay out of politics," I would answer that politics is far from the only arena in which gays have to keep who they love hidden. In many workplaces across the nation, particular when you get further from large coastal urban areas, nearly every workplace is at least little like that, a fact that's easy to forget living somewhere like Washington, DC. In a society where so many people weren't bent on writing discrimination against gays into our laws, perhaps there would be far fewer of these unhappy marriages that fall apart and ultimately hurt husbands, wives, and children. Does that make the Bible belt types to blame for McGreevey's poor judgments? No, but this unfortunate chain of events, in which a promising career is left in shambles, could not have happened in quite this fashion in a more tolerant nation.

And now New Jersey's government is in turmoil again, with different factions in both parties manuvering. McGreevey scheduled his resignation for November 15, after November's national elections; in the meantime, he's going to try to continue to run government as before. Republicans in particular are trying to push for a quick resignation, since his resigning before September 3 would result in a gubernatorial election concurrent with the presidential election, a two-month campaign for effectively a one-year term as governor, since New Jersey is scheduled to have its next regular gubernatorial election in November 2005. Different politicians in both parties are pushing their own agendas and numerous names are mentioned as possible gubernatorial candidates.

And once again, the fact that New Jersey abolished the position of Lieutenant Governor becomes, for the second time in four years, more than a mere trivia question. So, between the time McGreevey's resignation becomes effective and whenever the next gubernatorial election is held, the Garden State will again have a parliamentary-type government, with the Senate President serving as Acting Governor. Will it be for one year or two months? Time will tell.

Will this make it harder for a gay man (or a lesbian) to be elected state governor? Hard to say, since it's never happened and didn't seem likely to happen anytime soon in any event. The old political adage that a man in office is "better off found in bed with a dead girl than a live boy" may indeed no longer be true, since McGreevey's political adversaries have tended to focus on the corruption issues rather than the sexuality issues. This whole story shows how much things have changed in a few short years.

If you want more on this developing story, read this site.


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