New Jersey Governor James McGreevey's resignation statement was brilliant.
Threatened with a sexual harassment lawsuit by his alleged male lover, having appointed him, a thoroughly unqualified man, as homeland security advisor at a time when America, in particular, the New York metropolitan area, is threatened with horrific terror and with any number of other instances of corruption already revealed and more likely to come out, Governor McGreevey saw the future and realized he had to resign from office.
But the way he did it was a masterstroke. He turned opprobrium into compassion.
He did it with one sentence. "I am a gay American."
On the face of it, it is irrelevant to whatever wrongs he may have committed against his state, his wife or his religion. But he did so because he knew that it would immediately deflect attention from his actions to his sexual orientation.
And then he would receive at least as much understanding and compassion as condemnation.
Because the moment he announced he was gay, people assumed that he did what he did because a homophobic society forced him, a homosexual, to live a fraudulent heterosexual life.
Who then could blame him? If society forced you, dear heterosexual male reader, to live with a man all your life and deny yourself the physical love of a woman, wouldn't you, too, eventually crack under the pressure and make love to a woman?
That is how at least half the country thinks about McGreevey now: "Well, he was wrong, and sure, he shouldn't have given that man a six-figure-a-year job advising the governor of New Jersey on the life and death issue of security, but let's be decent here. The guy's gay, and he's been living with a woman all his adult life."
Moreover, the country or at least its liberal half, which includes the leading news media has a different standard for homosexual and heterosexual sins.
Heterosexual men who have many partners are condemned as womanizers; homosexual men who have many partners are largely ignored. There are no "manizers."
When Massachusetts gay congressman Barney Frank confirmed, as reported by the Washington Post, "that he paid Stephen Gobie for sex, hired him with personal funds as an aide and wrote letters on congressional stationery on his behalf to Virginia probation officials," and that Gobie ran a gay prostitution service from Congressman Frank's apartment, it meant nothing to his voters or to most of the country. Imagine, on the other hand, if a heterosexual politician had such a relationship with a call girl who ran a prostitution ring from his home. The man would have been forced to resign in a week.
So, Governor McGreevey knew exactly what he was doing when he announced, "I am a gay American." In addition to eliciting compassion, he was appealing to the double standard the country holds on behalf of gays and striking a blow for same-sex marriage. That is why, as the New York Times reported on its front page, McGreevey's "precisely worded bombshell line 'I am a gay American' was strategically devised with the help of a national gay rights organization the governor had consulted."
What makes the assertion even more manipulative is that it may not even be true.
The odds are that the governor is not homosexual but bisexual.
On the assumption that having been married twice he has had sex with at least two women, and on numerous occasions, it is quite likely that he was able to perform sexually with them presumably in a way that did not arouse their suspicions.
How is this to be explained? Aren't we repeatedly told by gay spokesmen that a homosexual man can no more enjoy sex with a woman than a heterosexual man can enjoy sex with a man?
Either this assertion is false or Governor McGreevey is not "a gay American."
The odds are therefore overwhelming that Governor McGreevey is a bisexual who prefers men.
But if he had announced he was bisexual, he would have received far less sympathy, because unlike homosexuals, bisexuals do have a choice.
We have come a long way from society unfairly condemning homosexuals' perennial fear of blackmail to a time when announcing one is a homosexual is a sympathy-gaining tactic.
And for those who believe that society unfairly pressures men to marry women, I suggest asking Mr. McGreevey this: "If you could do it all over again, would you have never made love to a woman, never married and never had the two daughters you have?"
Yes, society pressures men into marriage, and admittedly, some men, not only gays, should not marry. But without that pressure, far fewer men would marry. Just as McGreevey may have always preferred sex with men, most heterosexual men married to a woman would prefer sex with a succession of women to sex with only one. Marriage demands of all men that their sexual nature not be fully expressed. It does so for society's sake, for the sake of children, for women's sakes, and, yes, ultimately for men's sakes as well. Admittedly, such an idea is foreign to those who believe that sexual self-realization is the highest personal value.
No politician should have to resign from office because he committed an infidelity. But gay politicians should be held to the same standards as straight ones. Otherwise, "I am a gay American" will continue be a great defense, even when it may not even be true.