Words and Deeds

Over- and underappreciated San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll had a decent piece today on the Bush administration’s war rhetoric. For contrast, he used Winston Churchill’s stirring yet reflective account of a British assault on Sudanese forces outside Khartoum in 1898:

“The Dervish host was scattered and destroyed. Their end, however, only anticipates that of the victors, for Time, which laughs at Science, as Science laughs at Valor, will in due course contemptuously brush both combatants away.”

In big type, Carroll asks: Is there anyone in politics today who could construct sentences like that?” Fair question, in that Churchill shows here and elsewhere it’s possible to write beautifully while in the service of abominable causes like our misbegotten Iraq campout. Unfair question, because we’re talking about one of the language’s finest prose stylists ever.

But whether the question’s ridiculous or not, I had an answer: Yes, James McGreevy. His address yesterday announcing he’s “a gay American” and resigning as governor of New Jersey because of an extramarital affair with another man was uncommonly courageous and, at moments, beautifully wrought:

In this, the 47th year of my life, it is arguably too late to have this discussion. But it is here, and it is now. At a point in every person’s life, one has to look deeply into the mirror of one’s soul and decide one’s unique truth in the world, not as we may want to see it or hope to see it, but as it is.

The whole speech is well above the usual political doggerel. He attempts to lift the whole affaiir above politics and into the realm of deep personal quest. Of course, this might be another example of someone offering nice phrases in an abominable cause.

Yesterday, it was clear McGreevy wasn’t explaining one significant detail: What had driven him to make his announcement now? Late last night and today we got the answer: He was about to be exposed in a sexual harassment lawsuit that is either a) the action brought by a former aide seeking justice or b) the handiwork of a spurned aide who hoped to blackmail his former lover. That’ll all be sorted out, maybe even in public.

What’s interesting today, though, is looking back at past stories concerning McGreevy’s special friend, Golan Cipel. McGreevy hired him as a homeland security adviser, moved him out of that job into an undefined position of “counselor” when questions arose about his security qualifications, then got rid of him altogether when questions about what he was doing to merit a $110,000 a year salary wouldn’t go away.

But even a cursory glance at Cipel’s past is bound to raise more questions about his relationship with McGreevy after he left his state job. Here’s what a real quick Google search — not investigative reporting — turns up.

A Web site called New Jersey Capital Report (it’s produced by a rather Republican-sounding PR/lobbying firm called Capital Public Affairs, so yeah, have your grain of salt ready) ran a column (called McGreevy Watch) the day Cipel left state employment two years ago that reported Cipel had landed a job with a lobbying firm that apparently had close ties to the governor. About six weeks, later, McGreevy Watch reported that Cipel continued to be McGreevy’s (unpaid) adviser on Jewish affairs and that he had already moved from his first lobbyist’s job to another, having been hired into another firm by a man described as McGreevy’s best friend.

With that and other details floating around, McGreevy’s not going to come out of this looking as noble as he did yesterday.

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