McGreevey's truth is hard to believe

Sep 19, 2006

Philadelphia Inquirer

By Monica Yant Kinney

Here's my Confession: Last week, I actually wondered if I was being too hard on former Gov. Jim McGreevey, the lying, cheating, sleaze hawking a new book claiming he's a changed man.

But then I spent the weekend reading an increasingly sickening war of words between McGreevey and his supposed former lover, Golan Cipel. Now, the most charitable thing to say about the disgraced leader is that he's lucky he wasn't investigated for attempted rape - and luckier today's much-hyped Oprah appearance is not live, but taped.

Leave it to McGreevey to usher in a new low for sexual politics: The he-said, he-said.

On one side, we have a fallen leader waxing nostalgically about how it took the love of another man to make him finally feel like one.

On the other, McGreevey's so-called savior, Cipel, says he was sexually harassed and assaulted by his boss.

In The Confession, which hits bookshelves today, McGreevey writes of finding a soulmate in Cipel, saying their first embrace "was the first time in my life that a kiss meant what it was supposed to mean."

In an interview with my colleague John Shiffman in Sunday's paper, Cipel recalls the 2001 encounter much differently: as a physical attack fueled by Jagermeister shots and McGreevey's insatiable lust for power.

McGreevey, Cipel said, "comes up, turned toward the den very fast, and pushed me toward the bedroom. I froze, and I said, 'What's going on?' He pushed me again on my chest. He jumped on me, and we wrestled. He tried to kiss me. He tried to sexually assault me."

Neither of these guys is entirely believable, but at least both men agree on one thing: McGreevey's unforgivable sense of timing.

The night that changed both of their lives forever claimed two other innocent victims: McGreevey's wife and infant daughter, facing the future alone in a hospital room, miles away.

What's love got to do with it?

The problem with writing a tell-all titled The Confession is this: If you've been lying your whole life, why should anyone believe you now?

Especially when you admit your own memory is faulty when it comes to your own misdeeds.

And especially since this Confession tries to absolve just one person (McGreevey) and scandalizes so many others (ex-wives, daughters and parents, to name a few who deserve better).

Politicians see McGreevey's sex saga as a convenient explanation for his demise that keeps the bodies buried. They love that McGreevey tattles about dirty deeds in the bedroom but keeps quiet about the back rooms.

McGreevey didn't come clean. He just came out.

As we now know from last week's guilty plea, his political mentor, John Lynch, was a corrupt teacher, profiting and pilfering from his position in the state Senate. Once in office, McGreevey acknowledges letting scoundrels have their way with the state.

"Some things I'd done, or allowed to be done in my name, were morally repugnant to me," he writes in the book. "I kept myself in the dark about or forced from my mind if I learned too much. Obviously this is one root of my memory problems."

Boo hoo, who?

And to think, the launch of McGreevey 2.0 was supposed to begin with a kid-gloves interview on Oprah today.

Instead, his publisher spent the last week mopping up leaks that made the public turn and stomachs churn.

"With the lack of ethics in this culture, keeping your word, honoring your agreements is difficult," his publisher, Judith Regan, told the New York Times, apparently unaware of the irony.

"You never know who's cheating on you. You can't control it. You just have to lay back and enjoy the show."

Enjoy? There's nothing remotely enjoyable about any of this, lady.

My prediction: Oprah and Larry King may fawn over the "gay American," but regular people will buy neither the story line nor The Confession.

We already know enough to know we don't want to know more. The book will wind up in the discount bins, where the unreadable and unthinkable belong.