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New York Post Editorial
JIM MCGREEVEY'S NON-CONFESSION
May 23, 2006 -- Well, look who's back.
Disgraced former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey resurfaced this week to hawk his new book, "The Confession."
Good title - for McGreevey is a man with much to confess.
Sex sells, and McGreevey plainly wants sales: His book focuses mainly on the events and lifestyle that led up to his dramatic departure from politics two years ago - when he declared to the world that he was a "gay American."
But while an autobiography is obviously the author's effort to tell the story of his life, the writer's not entitled to his own set of facts. And the emphasis on clandestine trysts keeps in the background - in the closet? - a more uncomfortable truth.
Jim McGreevey is not the first politician to be caught up in a sex scandal.
And he's not the first to be brought low by a scandal involving gay sex.
What made McGreevey's confessional so memorable is that it was likely the first time a politician admitted to an affair to draw attention away from the far broader corruption that permeated his administration.
No, McGreevey wasn't the first Jersey pol to engage in pay-to-play influence-peddling - but he certainly took it to new levels.
But the ultimate reason McGreevey was driven from office is simple: He appointed a person with whom he was having a sexual relationship - Israeli-born Golan Cipel - to a highly sensitive office for which he was manifestly unqualified.
With a War on Terror under way, the governor installed his boyfriend - a non-resident immigrant who couldn't pass a background check - as state homeland security chief.
Were Cipel a woman and all other details the same, McGreevey would have - appropriately - been run out of town with nary a second thought.
Alas, the gay angle conveniently obscures all that - and lets McGreevey play for sympathy as a tortured soul forced to lead a double life.
As opposed to just another garden-variety corrupt elected official from New Jersey.
Which he was, in spades.
The New York Times
N.Y. / Region
McGreevey Says Political Career Was Pursued as Painful Lie
By DAVID W. CHEN
Published: May 23, 2006
TRENTON, May 22 — Former Gov. James E. McGreevey was so determined to climb up New Jersey's political ladder that he hid the fact that he was gay by masquerading as a womanizer, according to an excerpt from his memoir, scheduled to be published in September.
Mr. McGreevey's political drive and ambition made it easy for him to recognize and accept that he would have to lie the rest of his life, according to the excerpt. Yet the secret of his homosexuality compelled him to engage in anonymous gay sex at bookstores and highway rest stops, though the excerpt does not say when or where those encounters took place.
Mr. McGreevey, a Democrat who was elected governor in 2001, disclosed his sexual orientation in August 2004 when he announced that he was resigning from office because of an extramarital affair with a man he did not identify. Aides to Mr. McGreevey said the man was the governor's former homeland security adviser.
The excerpt from Mr. McGreevey's memoir, titled "The Confession," was released in Washington over the weekend at BookExpo America, the publishing industry's annual convention, and was first reported on Sunday by The Star-Ledger of Newark.
But in interviews on Monday, the book's publisher, Judith Regan, and friends of Mr. McGreevey who have read other chapters, said that the memoir goes well beyond his struggles as a twice-married gay man who kept his sexuality secret. They also say that the book serves as a kind of behind-the-scenes manual to the levers of power, politics and money in New Jersey.
"The book is very frank about New Jersey politics, and he's going to name names," Ms. Regan said in an interview on Monday. "He's very frank about what politicians need to do about getting elected. And I think it takes a lot of courage to say this is what happened."
Mr. McGreevey, 48, has generally kept a low profile since leaving office in November 2004. But his official portrait as governor is scheduled to be unveiled at the New Jersey State House in a private ceremony this summer. And after his book is published on Sept. 19, he is scheduled to make an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show.
In a 16-page section released over the weekend, Mr. McGreevey talks about trying desperately to reconcile his public ambition and his private reality through a "metaphorical amputation." He writes achingly about other closeted gay men, like Roy Cohn and Rock Hudson.
But he says that he learned how to pretend by watching how others acted in a world in which "sex and politics are inexorably intermingled" in New Jersey political life.
Tales of torment: First look at McGreevey book
Sunday, May 21, 2006
BY JOSH MARGOLIN
Newark Star-Ledger Staff
WASHINGTON -- Former Gov. James E. McGreevey felt as if he were "marching slowly into hell" as he fought to overcome his homosexuality and failed, engaging in anonymous trysts with men at highway rest stops even as he polished the image that would propel him to the state's highest office, he writes in his tell-all memoir.
McGreevey's publisher released 16 pages of excerpts from the book, "The Confession," yesterday at Book Expo America, the publishing industry's largest annual convention.
The former governor, in his first public event since resigning from office in a gay sex scandal 21 months ago, spent about 90 minutes on the floor of the Washington Convention Center, signing copies of the excerpts and exchanging pleasantries with scores of people who lined up to meet him. The 384-page book is due out Sept. 19.
"I'm doing great," McGreevey, 48, said in a brief interview afterward. "I'm in a good place."
McGreevey's easy manner stood in contrast to the tone of the excerpts, which portray a tortured man struggling to subjugate desires demonized by his Catholic faith and by his family. Disclosure of his secret, he was certain, would derail the political career he coveted.
"I knew I would have to lie for the rest of my life -- and I knew I was capable of it," McGreevey writes. "The knowledge gave me a feeling of terrible power."
Nowhere in the excerpts does McGreevey mention Golan Cipel, the one-time aide with whom the governor engaged in an extramarital affair. Indeed, the excerpts don't delve at all into the scandal, which exploded into view Aug. 12, 2004, the day McGreevey told a nationally televised news conference, "I am a gay American."
Also absent are potshots at McGreevey's political foes.
He does, however, comment on the role that sex plays in New Jersey politics, saying the two are "inexorably intermingled."
He calls the annual League of Municipalities conference in Atlantic City, for example, a "pickup convention."
"All around me, pickups were taking place in plain sight," McGreevey writes. "People would be talking about the event for weeks to come -- who got lucky, who got stiffed, and what everybody else thought about it.
"This was a terrible place not to be straight."
That connection between sex and politics also could be found in New Jersey's go-go bars, which McGreevey says he frequented as a way to deny his homosexuality, both to himself and to others.
"It was amazing to me how often we ran into local political operatives in such places -- because a great deal of New Jersey's backroom business is conducted by men while folding bills into the waistbands of women dancing in their laps," he writes. "It was like ancient Rome, or some tawdry modern variant in which aspiring politicians did their level best to be seen at clubs with names like VIP and Cheeques. I was one of those young men."
Much of what was released yesterday focuses on McGreevey's inner turmoil and his attempts to become a straight man. He stared at Playboy centerfolds. He prayed. He read psychology texts. And he turned increasingly toward sex with women.
"As the years went on, I became as avid a womanizer as anybody else on the New Jersey political scene," McGreevey writes. "But my attraction was largely artificial, my sexual performance a triumph of mind over matter."
What he really craved, he writes, was a relationship with a man, and because he couldn't have one out in the open, he resorted to hushed encounters.
"As glorious and meaningful as it would have been to have a loving and sound sexual experience with another man, I knew I'd have to undo my happiness step by step as I began chasing my dream of a public career and the kind of 'acceptable' life that went with it," McGreevey writes.
"So, instead, I settled for the detached anonymity of bookstores and rest stops -- a compromise, but one that was wholly unfulfilling and morally unsatisfactory."
Because McGreevey gives no sense of place or time for such encounters, it's impossible to know how far along he was in his political career when they took place.
Throughout his political rise, from state Parole Board member to Woodbridge mayor to governor, McGreevey became a student of human behavior, a means to help him carry on the charade.
"I studied the moves, figured out what worked and what didn't, practiced and perfected my perfect inauthenticity," he writes.
The excerpts do not touch on his two marriages. McGreevey's first wife, Kari Schutz, lives in British Columbia, Canada, with the couple's 13-year-old daughter, Morag. McGreevey separated from his second wife, Dina Matos, after his resignation. Matos lives in Springfield with 4-year-old Jacqueline, the couple's daughter.
McGreevey called writing the book a "tough process" and joked that "The Confession" was "on the ninth redraft." He collaborated on the book with David France, an author and former investigative reporter.
"It's painfully honest," McGreevey said. He declined to elaborate beyond adding that he believed "a lot will resonate with readers."
McGreevey's publisher is banking on that. ReganBooks, a division of HarperCollins, will pay the former governor up to $500,000 for his memoir. When the book is released in September, McGreevey is to embark on a national promotional tour, including a scheduled interview with Oprah Winfrey.
The book already can be ordered on Amazon.com, which is packaging it with the gay cowboy film "Brokeback Mountain."
Book Expo America -- where publicists, authors, editors and distributors converge -- is a good place to tout upcoming offerings, and McGreevey's publisher, Judith Regan, wasted no time in doing so.
"He's more honest than, I think, any author that I've ever published," said Regan, who has released books by such celebrities as Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern. "Both personally and professionally, he's telling all."
She said that while most politicians have been trained not to reveal their secrets for fear of losing their jobs, McGreevey has overcome that taboo.
Yesterday he seemed completely at ease. He walked into the expo with his usual wave and sat down, black marker in hand, as a line of people waited for him. He posed for photos with some autograph-seekers and exchanged handshakes or hugs with others.
As each person approached, McGreevey looked intently at the name tag and greeted each one by first name. Some called him "Jim." Others stuck with "Governor." For each one, McGreevey had a broad smile and his familiar "How ya' doin'?"
By the end of the 90-minute session, he had signed more than 125 copies of the excerpts.
Some asked McGreevey whether he had a love interest at the moment.
That love interest, Manhattan financial adviser Mark O'Donnell, accompanied McGreevey to Washington but did not attend the expo. The two recently have been house-shopping in Union County. In the meantime, McGreevey continues to live in a two-bedroom rental apartment in Rahway.
Those who showed up to meet McGreevey expressed support.
Edward Thomas of Ridgewood was ecstatic to be photographed with the man he voted for twice, during McGreevey's unsuccessful run for governor in 1997 and when McGreevey won in November 2001.
"He's a high-profile gay man," Thomas said. "We need more of those. It's very difficult to come out of the closet."
Peter Balis, director of online sales for the Wiley publishing group in Hoboken, talked with McGreevey about marketing.
Balis said McGreevey may have a hard time selling the book.
"I think it's going to be a book that's going to require some unique marketing," Balis said. "I think he had a lot of fans in New Jersey, but he's going to have to do a lot of outreach to the (gay and lesbian) community if he's going to sell as many copies as Judith Regan hopes he's going to sell."
While the excerpts released yesterday do contain some salacious bits, they also contain the kind of workaday material common to political memoirs: a recounting of McGreevey's education, his family life and his aspirations.
He writes at length about a relationship with a woman he met at Catholic University. Later, when McGreevey went to Harvard for a graduate degree in education in 1981, he reconnected with her. McGreevey doesn't name the woman, referring to her by the pseudonym "Laura."
She would serve as a date for him -- his "beard" -- when needed.
"Had I been straight, I surely would have fallen in love with her," McGreevey writes.
In the absence of romantic fulfillment, McGreevey pursued a career in politics with an almost single-minded purpose, and he believed a job at the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office would help him.
He landed the job through a family connection, McGreevey writes, calling the process his "first taste of politics New Jersey-style."
McGreevey believed he could mask his ambition, much as he had his homosexuality. But he writes in the book that a colleague, Caroline Meuly, saw through the facade.
"She saw something much more private," McGreevey writes. "Not my sexuality, but my ambition, especially my naked intention to use this job as a stepping stone to political office."
Staff writers Mark Mueller, John Wihbey, Nyier Abdou, Joe Ryan and Kathleen G. Sutcliffe contributed to this report.