The Other Shoe

So the country lost it’s second state governor in as many months today, this time a Democrat from New Jersey.

Dropping a political bombshell, New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey announced his resignation Thursday after revealing that he is gay and that he had an adulterous affair with a man. McGreevey’s surprise announcement came as a former aide readied a sexual harassment lawsuit against the governor, two Democratic sources told CNN.

Perhaps I’m just a bit jaded by the past decade of political bomb throwing, but I don’t see McGreevey leaving politics; I see him trying to a) disarm the plaintiff, b) play for sympathy, and c) set up for the next political race. If there’s anyone to feel sorry for, it’s McGreevey’s family.

Oh, and the people of New Jersey.

His resignation will take effect November 15, and State Senate President Richard Codey, a fellow Democrat, will serve the the remainder of his term, which ends in January 2006. If McGreevey’s resignation had taken effect before September 15, state law would have required a special gubernatorial election on November 2.

For someone who wants the public to believe he’s taking the high road in resigning, McGreevey sure did play a masterful political card with this one. Not only are the people of New Jersey saddled with a lame duck governor for more than three months, they’ll then have a replacement for the following 14 months who was never elected to that office. If healing and family were that important, if the lawsuit and rumors were going to be that much of a distraction, if resignation is going to be the proper course of action, shouldn’t it take place a lot sooner than November 15th? Shouldn’t there be an interim election? Shouldn’t the state have a functioning political structure again as soon as possible?

Gov. McGreevey’s sexuality is not the issue, it’s the screen. He’s counting the fact that plenty of people will proclaim him a hero. But James Carville put it best when he said this wasn’t the whole story (and after the Clinton years, he should know). There’s more to it, another shoe to drop. And we likely won’t know what that is for a day or two. If it’s anything like what’s suggested here, the motivation for McGreevey’s resignation will turn out to be avoiding impeachment.

That’s the real story.

Alas, tales of woe from his childhood and hints of sexual repression (“I tried to do what was right”) are a clear play for sympathy and a move to make this a story about gay acceptance. It’s not. If he were simply a gay guy coming out for personal reasons, it would be a non-story. There are already gay politicians all over the country. I have a hard time believing anyone would find his sexuality a reason for him to quit.

This is about whatever’s in that lawsuit. Considering how long Gov. McGreevey has coveted the job of chief executive and how easily he appears to be letting it go, I would bet it’s pretty damn ugly.

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