Thursday, September 21, 2006

Governor McGreevey confesses.

Two years ago, you remember, James McGreevey resigned as the governor of New Jersey because of his affair with an Israeli citizen, Golan Cipel. The Governor's decision was less over his affair and the fact that Cipel had threatened to sue for sexual harassment than about the fact that he had appointed Cipel to a post he was not qualified for. So McGreevey came out in front of the cameras and it was a pretty interesting moment. The Governor, of course, made his resignation about his homosexuality but, as the New York Times was quick to point out, it was more about his abuse of public power.

I remember remarking to a friend at a party sometime after his resignation that the Governor seemed to be a man who liked having his cake and eating it too. At that point another acquaintance interjected that this was natural for a man his age -- McGreevey is in his forties -- and that his predicament merited more sympathy, especially from twenty-something types like me, who had much to be thankful for. I had to admit that was true.

Well, anyway, now McGreevey is publishing his memoir -- confessional, rather. An excerpt has been published in the latest New York magazine and while I'm not about to run out and buy his book -- it's called The Confession; sutble, huh? -- it's on the whole not bad, it probably even has some grains of truth in it. The New York excerpt pretty much tells the whole story, what else is he going to talk about in his book?

Back to the excerpt though. Some parts, of course, are cringe-worthy: I mean who talks like this?
“Gole,” I said. “You’ve got to learn to be part of the team.”

“My only team is you,” he said.

Gole indeed!

Here's his (over-dramatized) account of his first meeting with Cipel:

One afternoon, we took a bus trip to a local arts center in Rishon Lezion, a rather featureless city just outside Tel Aviv. We were greeted there by the mayor, but it was his 32-year-old communications director, a former Israeli naval officer, who caught my eye. That’s too casual a way to put it. My attraction to him was immediate and intense, and apparently reciprocated. Our eyes met over and over before we were introduced. “This is Golan Cipel,” said the mayor. “He is familiar with New Jersey—for a number of years he worked at the Israeli Embassy in Manhattan.”

We shook hands for a long time. “I followed your campaign very closely,” Golan said. “Twenty-seven thousand votes is a very narrow margin.” He went on to describe my strengths among various constituencies. I was startled by his knowledge of my campaign.

At lunch I made sure to sit next to him. “Democrats take Jews for granted. It’s a powerful constituency. You have to develop relationships with them,” he said. “You got a good percentage of the overall Jewish vote. But if you’d gotten even a small number of Orthodox votes, and all of the Reform Jews, you would be governor today.”

He had smart ideas about my campaign, but I was only half-listening. Watching this handsome man talk—and show an interest in my political standing—totally mesmerized me. Nobody commits to memory the demographic standings of a politician halfway around the world as an academic exercise. I was flattered beyond anything I’d ever experienced before.

I assumed he was straight, but what was happening at this lunch if not flirting? I flirted back, a bit shamelessly. I can’t say I ever had a more electrifying first meeting—so dangerously carried out in a room full of politicians who could ruin us both.

I don't know about you but it sure rings true to me.

The other well-written part of the extract is, of course, the Big Fall, when things start to go wrong. I'm not sure if McGreevey is a genuinely tragic figure, or even deserves to be, but there are some tragic elements, nevertheless. An ambitious man, with his own secrets, a passion that turns out to be a mistake and then of course, the Fall -- oh yes, that's a tragedy all right.

Finally, even if everything else is a piece of balderdash, this has got to be true:
My father’s first response was, “You make a choice, Jim—Coke or Pepsi. You were married twice, you have two wonderful daughters. Why don’t you try to make that work? Why don’t you make the regular choice?”

“Dad, I’ve known my whole life. This is who I am.”

“You will always be my son,” he said, shaking my hand stiffly.

My mother, whose love for me has proved tremendously resilient, mostly kept her thoughts to herself. But when we parted, she took me into her arms and gave me a long and tender hug. “We will always love you, no matter what you do,” she said.

I could have done without the descriptions of his love-making with Cipel, it seems straight out of a not-too-good novel. And I'm inclined to completely distrust his posturings about campaign finance, the man protests far too much. He is also wrong to make his resignation into a triumph. For him, maybe but isn't he forgetting that he was a public servant?

And speaking of public servants, I'm intensely curious about the young and handsome Mr Golan Cipel, who to this day denies that there was an affair at all. Here's his story -- I'm more inclined to believe McGreevey's though, maybe it isn't true but it's far more interesting.


Anonymous said...

hey hey! leave McGreevey alone. I don't quite know why, but his "gay American" speach is iconic and I'm a fag and am biased. Nobody has ever written an accurate autobiography, besides why do you expect Cipel to acknowledge an affair?


Shreeharsh said...

no, you're right. i'm pretty convinced they did have an affair and that mcgreevey has outlined the way it went pretty well. and i find cipel's story completely unbelievable and he sounds really unpleasant and calculating -- well, to put it plainly, a total bastard! but then i'm a fag too and biased!

what i don't like about mcgreevey's story is how easily he casts himself as the victim. i find his story really tragic but i can't really think of someone smart enough to become to the governor of a state as just a victim.

oh well, i seem to have tied myself up in knots! :-)