Jonah Goldberg

A sure sign of a political movement's maturity is the discretion it shows in picking its leaders. Which is why gay groups could show how grown up they are by excommunicating James McGreevey.

McGreevey, you will recall, was the corrupt governor of New Jersey who was forced to resign when it was revealed that he had appointed Golan Cipel, a poet, to run his state's homeland security department in the hope that Cipel would become the governor's male concubine. McGreevey came out of the closet only after Cipel threatened to sue him for sexual harassment.

McGreevey denies accusations that he plied Cipel with Jagermeister shots and sexually assaulted him. He says it was a real "love affair" first consummated while McGreevey's wife was in the hospital recovering from her Caesarian section delivery of their daughter. Cipel says he and McGreevey never had sex.

Whatever the truth, it's clear that McGreevey only came out because the wheels were coming off his political career. He tried to leap to safety by grabbing on to the guardrail of identity politics, declaring with focus-group clarity: "My truth is that I am a gay American." That formulation - "my truth" - was exquisitely postmodern, implying that truth isn't something we can all lay claim to anymore. It must be personalized, relativized. It's all about me.

By buying into this secular gospel, McGreevey appears to think that he can be cleansed of his sins. But real redemption requires admitting your mistakes, not merely the prurient details. As the Philadelphia Inquirer's Monica Yant Kinney notes: "McGreevey didn't come clean. He just came out."

In his memoir, "The Confession," McGreevey offers any number of revelations, but they don't add up to a confession. "Some things I'd done, or allowed to be done in my name, were morally repugnant to me," he writes, presumably referring to the various aides, mentors and backers facing criminal charges or mired in scandal. But he dealt with that by "forgetting" or never allowing himself to know. "I had my people strike back-room deals 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."

Translation: "I feel so guilty about my corruption I can't remember it. But hey, would you like to hear about my gay trysts at truck stops? I remember those perfectly."

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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