The Confession by James E. McGreevey, copyright 2006.
Read by: James E. McGreevey
Publisher: Harper Audio
Length: 5hrs. 34mins. (Unabridged)
Source: Personal Collection – Purchased New
Reason for Reading: Subject Matter
In 2004 when James McGreevey resigned from office amidst the controversy surrounding his sexuality and his affair with former aid Golan Cipel, I felt great pride for the embattled governor. It is next to impossible in the United States for gays to serve openly in public office, and for him to face the public and declare his homosexuality on national television was, I felt, a defining moment for the gay community. After reading his memoir, I am less sure about McGreevey’s integrity and am wondering if I didn’t perhaps overestimate the significance of his coming-out.
Whatever the case may be, it really struck a chord with me listening to the audiobook and hearing a former politician talk about his experiences growing up as a gay youth with his debilitating fear of being found-out. What was intriguing was that, with so much to lose, it didn’t stop McGreevey, at least in his earlier years, from frequenting parks and public reststops to alleviate his desires. Aside from the really juicy parts about his sexuality, however, there wasn’t much else of interest in the book. In fact, other than his apparent fight to better the environment during his two years as Governor of New Jersey, McGreevey failed to highlight much other change that he was able to effect during his career in the New Jersey State Legislature or as Mayor of Woodbridge. It seems that in order to effect change in the state you have to be living in the Governor’s Mansion.
What McGreevey did do was paint a pretty rotten picture of both himself and his state. Not that anyone necessarily needs to have a poor picture of New Jersey painted for them, there is certainly no shortage of New Jersey stereotypes, but I somehow expected McGreevey to do a better job of dispelling some of them. I was left with the sense that McGreevey was admitting that his state was one of the most corrupt in the union, especially as concerned the Governor’s office. Add to that the fact that McGreevey aspired to the office of Governor from the time he was a child and it doesn’t paint him in a very positive light.
Perhaps McGreevey’s honesty about the poor reputation of his state is just part-and-parcel with his new found self and his endeavour to be honest in all things. If anything was crystal clear in this short, five-hour audio presentation, it was that McGreevey wants nothing more than to make good for all of the hurt that he has caused. There is no shortage of people whom he has deceived and lied to, but undoubtedly, those he hurt the most were his family. This man had not only one failed child-bearing marriage, but two. I have to admit, his profound irresponsibility in his personal life, in beginning a new family after the failure of the first, really did a lot to dampen McGreevey’s image in my eyes. Furthermore it was clear that, had it not been for Golan Cipel, the Governor would have continued down the road he was on, continued hiding himself, driven by the hunger for power and fame, perhaps all the way to the White House.
You will not learn anything fascinating about the politician James E. McGreevey by reading this book, but you will find a touching account of the hurt and shame that comes with bottling things up and hiding yourself from the world.