Jewish World Review August 17, 2004 / 30 Menachem-Av, 5764
No Profile in Courage
I keep hearing how "remarkable" and "poignant" and "courageous" it was when New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey announced recently that he was gay, an adulterer and was resigning from office.
But I don't buy it. I don't think it was poignant or courageous. I think it was just old-fashioned politics. And the only thing remarkable about McGreevey's announcement was how disingenuous it was.
I saw McGreevey's announcement on TV some keep referring to it as a press conference, but since he took no questions, it was no press conference and I have since read the text of his statement six or seven times. (It is not long.)
And the one thing I still cannot figure out is why the guy is resigning. You certainly can't figure it out based on what he says in his statement:
1. First he says he is a "gay American." OK, fine with me. But why resign over that? You don't have to resign from office if you are gay. A number of gay Americans hold high office in this country. True, some people might not want to vote for McGreevey for re-election based on his sexuality (and some people would want to), but we are not talking about re-election. We are talking about something so serious that McGreevey feels he has to resign now. But being gay is not the reason.
2. Second, he says he is an adulterer. "Shamefully, I engaged in an adult consensual affair with another man, which violates my bonds of matrimony. It was wrong. It was foolish. It was inexcusable," he says. Inexcusable it may be though plenty of people get excused for it but, again, it is also no reason to resign. Bill Clinton was an adulterer and he didn't resign his office and today it is hard to find many people who still care. So I don't think McGreevey's adultery is his reason for resigning.
3. Thirdly, McGreevey implies that he could have been blackmailed. "I realize," he says, "the fact of this affair and my own sexuality, if kept secret, leaves me, and most importantly the governor's office, vulnerable to rumors, false allegations and threats of disclosure." But the key words here are "if kept secret." Since McGreevey revealed the secrets of his sexuality and adultery, he can no longer be blackmailed. So it's no reason to resign.
4. Lastly, he indicates the pressure might be too great for him and his family. Sort of. Actually it is hard to tell what he means by this: "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." And that "likely impact" is so severe that he is not going to resign until Nov. 15! What sense does that make? If the pressure is so unbearable and is having so serious an effect on his ability to govern, why doesn't he resign immediately?
Clearly, something else is going on here and none of it looks good. McGreevey's statement tells us everything but the truth.
And for those praising McGreevey today for his courage and candor, would it not have been more courageous and more candid of him to say something like, "I put my lover on the public payroll in a job for which he was not qualified. That was wrong; I am sorry and am resigning immediately."
But McGreevey did not say anything like that. Instead, he used his sexuality and his family as a smokescreen.
Some will say I am being too tough on him and that what he did must have been terribly painful. But McGreevey only acted because he knew everything was about to become public anyway.
I remember my days as a newspaperman in Chicago when some pol would learn that the media was going to drop a bomb on him and he would rush to hold a press conference to try and muddy the waters. Or a pol would be advised by his lawyer that he was under investigation and the prosecutors might go easier on him if he was a private citizen and not the holder of high office.
So excuse me if I am not heaping praise on McGreevey today.
His announcement was no profile in courage. It was just a profile in politics.
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