James McGreevey’s Cesspool

Aquarian Weekly 9/1/04 REALITY CHECK

NOTES FROM THE CESSPOOL Part I A Reluctant Study In New Jersey Politics

James McGreeveyNilikuonyesha nyota na uliangalia kidole tu. Translated -I pointed out to you the stars and all you saw was the tip of my finger. – African Proverb

“All crimes should be punished with humiliations–public exposure in ridiculous and grotesque situations–and never in any other way.” – Mark Twain

Digesting aphorisms in Swahili is not unlike consuming rancid herbs you instinctively know is land fill, but have somehow convinced yourself will make you invincible, like the poor bastard who dupes himself into believing he has it all to avoid the nagging emptiness. The power of suggestion is a valuable asset to understanding politics, and a must if you are planning on covering it.

Twain? He was a rare warrior sent by God to remind us why it’s better to embrace our sins rather than deny the inevitable. His kind is needed in these times of high crimes and weird public trials in this fuck-awful diseased state. Mr. Clemens described politics with the proper mixture of humor and loathing. I would sooner let that cigar-champing crank take a shot at the implausible quagmire of New Jersey politics and spend the next three months stripping the sheen off these scabrous primates running for president.

But here I am, 36 months a citizen of the Garden State, having refused to face what has been described by the remaining working journalists around here as “an enviable level of corruption so fantastic it trumps the nightmare that is Florida”.

My last public recording of local politics was the week a bleating toad of a senator named Torricelli quit his post when he suddenly and painfully realized it was less likely he could save the charade of his campaign than buying back the acres of wetlands he sold to the Arabs for a healthy stack of OPEC shares. That, and a regrettable report I sent to press on shooting bear hunters in Sussex County, which got my wife in dutch with the card-carrying loons over at PETA.

On Torricelli, I wrote: “I do not want to get into the shady end of this mess of Jersey politics at this juncture of my career without some buffers in these warring camps. Let that read: I am not about to start uncovering the rotten cheese inside this fucking abortion without someone on the inside at least running interference for me.” (Senator Quitter or The Ballad of a Gutless Swine – 10/2/02)

And I meant it. It took me half a decade to collect “proper” sources in New York who had as much to lose as I did. Like I’ve said before, I own property now, and don’t write for a big-time news organization with a cadre of lawyers and a handy Journalist Protection Program. Causes are all the rage for renters, free spirits, and young, angry types. Aging journalists with a snappy column for a pop-culture weekly must stand down.

But then the calls started coming in mid-June about the governor finally cracking under the pressure of a pile of investigations stemming from top aids blackmailing public officials with video-taped sex acts, the transport of contraband from Cuba with government vehicles, illegal harassment of the voter registration board, code words on the misappropriations of funds uttered on tape, and a litany of e-mails emanating from the U.S. Attorney’s office threatening Tom Ridge with bodily harm.

“C’mon, Tom Ridge, why?” I asked one caller.

“Do you realize New Jersey receives an annual average of four dollars a head from the federal government for homeland security?” the voice intoned.

“So?” I shot back.

“So, Wyoming gets $20 a head! Wyoming? Who the hell is going to attack Wyoming? Jesus, we’re a river away from Manhattan? More than half the 9/11 hijackers were from Paterson! And do you know how many Jersey residents died on 9/11? How many from Wyoming, you think?”

“I’m worth four bucks to Tom Ridge?”

“Less than a beer at the Jersey Shore.”

But would McGreevey quit the governorship because he was gay?

His excitement was contagious. I already despised Tom Ridge, called him “a jabbering ass and a con man” in print. I have little use for anything called Homeland Security in a country where the military costs about half of our national expenditures and the CIA and the FBI are run by clinical masochists and Hell’s Angels rejects. But ultimately these gory facts did little to rouse my interest in “covering” New Jersey government corruption.

Then came the early rumblings of 8/12; the day the wisest Jerseyites among us now call “The Day of the Locusts”.

The morning was unusually cool for August. The first e-mail came in around 10:21 am, followed by a phone call from my pal Georgetown and another from The Desk’s henchmen, Senior Gack.

“The governor of New Jersey is quitting,” Georgetown reported over the machine.

I didn’t pick up. Fuck it, I thought. This is the kind of thing that got Mike Barnicle suspended from the Boston Globe. Crazy made up stories of black children dying from malpractice with no records or sources. Barnicle was suspended, then quit, and then went on television to increase his celebrity enough to force The Globe to hire him back in a fit of sensationalism. No one mentions it anymore, least of all The Globe, which has printed more front-page fiction since 1998 than the New Yorker.

Barnicle snapped under deadline pressure. Told some lies. Who doesn’t? Ethics are for students and newbies. Working stiff scribes need to lie. Black kids dead. New Jersey governor quits. Whatever.

However, by noon the legitimate press had it in black and white. United Press International went so far as to say that Jim McGreevey’s decision to resign is of “a personal nature – sexually related.”

So what? Sexual nature? Somewhere I could hear the ghost of Bill Clinton’s presidency chortle.

Then someone on WABC radio blurted out that the cat was out of the bag, or the closest.

But would McGreevey quit the governorship because he was gay?

Another friend of The Desk, Bohammer, later put it this way: “McGreevey hired some Israeli kid, a soldier, and put him on the state payroll at $110,000 a year. Called the job the Chairman of Task Force For Defense or something and set him up in cushy digs like a mob boss’s chippy.”

By then McGreevey was on television with his wife and family tossing out first-class spin like Civil Liberties and God and some babbling nonsense about grappling with his identity and looking deeply into the mirror of one’s soul.

Fifteen minutes later the Israeli soldier was officially suing the governor for sexual harassment.

“If you knew what I knew about the McGreevey administration,” Senior Gack told me later, “you would tell the nation you were a cross-dressing puppy killer to avoid the truth.”

“Jesus Christ,” Georgetown said halfway through. “He’s telling everyone he’s gay to get out of this! It’s genius!”

The bigger the lie, the more they’ll believe it.

Hitler said that. They accused him of all kinds of things. They said he was a monster or a mutant. But he was neither. He was a chicketshit finger painter with a big mouth and stale ideas of genocide to sate the ego of a broken system. He whipped up enough frenzy to begin the Thousand Year Reich with The Big Lie and it lasted a miserable 12 years. The Russians found his charred body near a drainage ditch in charred Berlin and beat it with rusty chains and gun buts.

But enough about that, it’s more important to find out why a governor of one of the richest states in the union would cash in his chips in a national election year with half his term yet to come.

Because he’s gay?

No one without dung for brains was buying it, least of all state Republicans who screamed bloody murder when they found out McGreevey was officially turning in his papers long after the deadline to have an emergency election, which would surely turn the reigns over to the GOP, despite a quote from someone inside the Bush campaign that told me the week I interviewed Ralph Nader, “They can catch John Kerry screwing an altar boy and he would carry Jersey by two million votes.”

I was now officially, if not reluctantly, on the case.

Part II

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