McGreevey’s reality TV
: As I mentioned earlier, a reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daniel Rubin, called me earlier tonight to talk about McGreevey’s announcement as television. What remarkable television it was.
On the one hand, this was reality TV with more raw, real human drama than any reality TV ever aired and more bluntness than any political speech ever given. Knowing what was going to happen for a few hours before he came on camera, I expected a duck and feint job from a politician. Instead, we saw an emotional, forceful, courageous announcement of a man’s secret.
But on the other hand, this was utterly unreal. Roiling just below the surface were a dozen other stories that were not told: There are the reports that the man who forced McGreevey’s secret out was his gay lover whom McGreevey hired for a $110,000 state job for which the man was utterly unqualified. There was his wife, standing there as if stoned. There was the hard-slap realization that McGreevey had used this wife and one before and children by both marriages as his beard for his political career. There was the contention that McGreevey was now using his gayness to obscure other sins and crimes. There was the story of an apparently devout Catholic who did the sin thing. There was the anguish of a gay man in the smoke-filled closet. There was the political intrique of maneuvering to avoid an election in November and keep the governor’s office in Democratic hands. There was the media’s role in helping to keep McGreevey’s secret. There were the other secrets waiting to come out: the story of the broken leg and God know’s what else. All this down the road in the home named Drumthwacket. Unreal.
McGreevey’s speech looked like a blast of steam but that hid the witches’ cauldron of bubble, bubble, toil, and trouble.
Usually, what we see in media — and in politics — is the unreal masking the real. Here, the real masked the unreal.
: Perhaps McGreevey will set a new bar for political confessions. What if Bill Clinton had come out and defiantly declared himself an American sex addict? What if Bush had come out and openly admitted he was a drunken slacker who pulled every string he could find to avoid putting on a uniform? What if Kerry came out and said he never could get Southeast Asian geography straight: I am a cartographic dyslexic! What if Dean screamed, I suffer from hyperactive ADD? What if Nixon said, I was a crook? Ya gotta problem wid dat?
This speech was as dramatically amazing as it was tactically perfect.
Even the queen of snark-cynicism, Wonkette, is softened: “Excuse the expression, but screw Obama. This was the speech of the year. The most high profile outing, well, ever, and McGreevey handled it with grace and dignity. He sort of makes me want to go gay, too.”
Put this speech next to the Nixon Checkers speech, the Clinton sex speech, the Johnson abdication speech, the Gov. Rowland beat-impeachment speech, even the horny Duke of Windsor speech — you name it — and it stands out as the best public confession in modern media memory.