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McGreevey, James: 'The Confession'

Faroer Flag'The Confession' by James McGreevey
ReganBooks, 369 pages
ISBN: 0060898623

Forget It, Governor!

Ex-New Jersey Governor’s Tale of Woe Doesn’t Fly in the Gay World

New Jersey ex-governor James McGreevey's new autobiography, The Confession, is a definite “don’t bother.” Instead of coming up with a candid, open look at what led to his resignation in 2004 after revealing to the world that he was gay, McGreevey, with the help of ghost writer David France, bores readers to tears with a pathetic, self-serving attempt at self-justification which panders annoyingly to a straight audience.

For those who don’t know, don’t care to remember or have already forgotten the name James McGreevey, first a quick and painless stroll down memory lane with help from Wikipedia:

James Edward "Jim" McGreevey (born August 6, 1957) is a U.S. Democratic politician. He served as the 52nd governor of New Jersey from January 15, 2002, until November 15, 2004, when he left office three months after admitting that he had had an extramarital affair with a male employee. Upon publicly revealing his homosexuality on August 12, 2004, McGreevey became the first and, to date, the only openly gay state governor in United States history.

The Confession is nothing more than a thinly-veiled effort to make excuses to the straight community for McGreevey’s having lost the Democratic governorship of the state of New Jersey at a time when Democrats could ill afford any political scandals in a country where the decks had already been stacked unfairly against them. Instead of using the platform of an autobiography to attempt to make up his shameful behavior and explain his actions to his constituents, McGreevey uses it to take potshots at the GLBT community.

The book begins with all the nitty-gritty details McGreevey’s youth, two failed marriages, and his political career, in which no detail – regardless of how minor or insignificant – is omitted. The turgidity does not even yield when the book finally cuts to the chase and offers up minutiae of his clandestine affair with his wildly overpaid aide Golan Cipel, the man who allegedly tried to blackmail and eventually caused McGreevey to step down.

Here, McGreevey had the outstanding opportunity to apologize not only to straight New Jersey voters, but also to the GLBT community at large for first having disavowed us, then having lied to everyone about his life, and finally, for having disappointed everyone with his clumsy, bumbling attempts at trying to hang on to his office and turn the entire sordid affair into a plus when there were only minuses apparent to everyone but himself. In The Confession, McGreevey tells us he will openly and frankly share his “story,” but in the end, no reader will care or shed a tear at this vainglorious attempt at self-aggrandizement. Indeed, it’s likely that many readers will dislike the man secretly known among his office staff as “Governor McCreepy” even more than they already do as the book tends to reveal his untrustworthy, shifty side even more.

McGreevy also manages to offend GLBT readers frequently. McGreevey actually manages to come off as callous, uncaring, unsympathetic and about as appealing as the most untrustworthy used car salesman you have ever had the misfortune of dealing with. McGreevey goes to extraordinary lengths to stress how butch he is, making sure the reader doesn’t miss the fact that he must have been the top in his long-term affair with Cipel, saying that he has always been careful to tone down ''any tendency to favor my female side.'' He goes on to insert an entire shoe store into his mouth when he attempts to justify his failure to embrace being gay by saying that he felt it would have been wrong, since homosexuality is “disgusting,” and then telling readers that he failed to come out in order to protect the ''tradition and values and America.''

If you’re looking for details about his sexuality, they’re in The Confession, but each time McGreevey shares any tidbit, it is immediately followed by pages of regret, remorse and excuse-proffering, as though the book is actually and purposely being directed at the political right. McGreevy does grant us a look at his first dealing with his gayness, quick forays to sex shops and adult video stores, and even how he managed to sneak out of his office under the watchful eyes of New Jersey’s finest to go over and nail Cipel periodically, but each such revelation is then weighed down with tedious passages of grief and guilt, explaining how guilty he felt, and how he actually felt revulsion after the act at times.

So what kind of a Confession is this, then? Not much of one. Aside from the obvious attempt at trying to somehow salvage what can only be described as the shattered remains of a political career, perhaps the other purpose of this leaden read is to try to raise some cash. After all, McGreevey’s second wife is in the process of divorcing him, and those lawsuits defending him against Cipel’s alleged attempts at blackmail probably weren’t cheap, either. In the end, however, I have to ask: “Who will believe you, McCreepy?”

Let’s be frank, Jim: You’ve insulted the entire GLBT community, sent Democrats screaming in panic at a time when they could ill afford it, offended straight women by revealing the fact that you first bedded Cipel when your wife was recovering from the birth of your second daughter, and turned off just about everyone. Even Log Cabin Republicans probably won’t want you in their conservative little boys’ club, considering all they have to deal with right now thanks to Rep. Foley and the Cocktober Surprise. And by telling us all you’ve now entered rehab, you don’t impress anyone either, Jim...

Facit: A snoozer. Angering to annoying, leaden read with long turgid passages and pathos in the extreme which is unappealing here. Avoidance maneuvers in bookstores showcasing this tome are clearly warranted here. Advice to author: don’t bother with a sequel and if you are keeping a journal, please keep it to yourself!

Added:  Sunday, November 05, 2006
Reviewer:  Peter Weeren
hits: 3940
Language: eng