The International Writers Magazine: New Jersey Politics
FROM THE CESSPOOL Part I
Reluctant Study In New Jersey Politics
Nilikuonyesha nyota na uliangalia kidole tu.
Translated - I pointed out to you the stars and all you saw was
the tip of my finger.
- African Proverb
should be punished with humiliations--public exposure in ridiculous
and grotesque situations--and never in any other way." - Mark Twain
Digesting aphorisms in Swahili is not unlike consuming rancid herbs
you instinctively know is land fill, but have somehow convinced yourself
will make you invincible, like the poor bastard who dupes himself into
believing he has it all to avoid the nagging emptiness. The power of
suggestion is a valuable asset to understanding politics, and a must
if you are planning on covering it.
Twain? He was a rare warrior sent by God to remind us why its
better to embrace our sins rather than deny the inevitable. His kind
is needed in these times of high crimes and weird public trials in this
fuck-awful diseased state. Mr. Clemens described politics with the proper
mixture of humor and loathing. I would sooner let that cigar-champing
crank take a shot at the implausible quagmire of New Jersey politics
and spend the next three months stripping the sheen off these scabrous
primates running for president.
But here I am, 36 months a citizen of the Garden State, having refused
to face what has been described by the remaining working journalists
around here as "an enviable level of corruption so fantastic it
trumps the nightmare that is Florida".
My last public recording of local politics was the week a bleating
toad of a senator named Torricelli quit his post when he suddenly and
painfully realized it was less likely he could save the charade of his
campaign than buying back the acres of wetlands he sold to the Arabs
a healthy stack of OPEC shares. That, and a regrettable report I sent
to press on shooting bear hunters in Sussex County, which got my wife
dutch with the card-carrying loons over at PETA.
On Torricelli, I wrote: "I do not want to get into the shady end
of this mess of Jersey politics at this juncture of my career without
some buffers in these warring camps. Let that read: I am not about to
start uncovering the rotten cheese inside this fucking abortion without
someone on the inside at least running interference for me." (Senator
Quitter or The Ballad of a Gutless Swine 10/2/02)
And I meant it. It took me half a decade to collect "proper"
sources in New York who had as much to lose as I did. Like Ive
I own property now, and dont write for a big-time news organization
with a cadre of lawyers and a handy Journalist Protection Program. Causes
are all the rage for renters, free spirits, and young, angry types.
Aging journalists with a snappy column for a pop-culture weekly must
But then the calls started coming in mid-June about the governor
finally cracking under the pressure of a pile of investigations stemming
from top aids blackmailing public officials with video-taped sex acts,
the transport of contraband from Cuba with government vehicles, illegal
harassment of the voter registration board, code words on the
misappropriations of funds uttered on tape, and a litany of e-mails
from the U.S. Attorneys office threatening Tom Ridge with bodily
"Cmon, Tom Ridge, why?" I asked one caller.
"Do you realize New Jersey receives an annual average of four
dollars a head from the federal government for homeland security?"
"So?" I shot back.
"So, Wyoming gets $20 a head! Wyoming? Who the hell is going to
attack Wyoming? Jesus, were a river away from Manhattan? More
than half the 9/11 hijackers were from Paterson! And do you know how
many Jersey residents died on 9/11? How many from Wyoming, you think?"
"Im worth four bucks to Tom Ridge?"
"Less than a beer at the Jersey Shore." His excitement was
contagious. I already despised Tom Ridge, called him "a jabbering
ass and a con man" in print. I have little use for anything called
Homeland Security in a country where the military costs about half of
our national expenditures and the CIA and the FBI are run by clinical
masochists and Hells Angels rejects. But ultimately these gory
facts did little to rouse my interest in "covering" New Jersey
Then came the early rumblings of 8/12; the day the wisest Jerseyites
among us now call "The Day of the Locusts". The morning was
unusually cool for August. The first e-mail came in around 10:21 am,
followed by a phone call from my pal Georgetown and another from The
Desks henchmen, Senior Gack.
"The governor of New Jersey is quitting," Georgetown reported
I didnt pick up. Fuck it, I thought. This is the kind of thing
that got Mike Barnicle suspended from the Boston Globe. Crazy made up
stories of black children dying from malpractice with no records or
sources. Barnicle was suspended, then quit, and then went on television
increase his celebrity enough to force The Globe to hire him back in
fit of sensationalism. No one mentions it anymore, least of all The
Globe, which has printed more front-page fiction since 1998 than the
Barnicle snapped under deadline pressure. Told some lies. Who doesnt?
Ethics are for students and newbies. Working stiff scribes need to lie.
Black kids dead. New Jersey governor quits. Whatever.
However, by noon the legitimate press had it in black and white.
United Press International went so far as to say that Jim McGreeveys
decision to resign is of "a personal nature sexually related."
So what? Sexual nature? Somewhere I could hear the ghost of Bill
Clintons presidency chortle.
Then someone on WABC radio blurted out that the cat was out of the
bag, or the closest.
But would McGreevey quit the governorship because he was gay? Another
friend of The Desk, Bohammer, later put it this way: "McGreevey
hired some Israeli kid, a soldier, and put him on the state payroll
at $110,000 a year. Called the job the Chairman of Task Force For Defense
or something and set him up in cushy digs like a mob bosss chippy."
By then McGreevey was on television with his wife and family tossing
out first-class spin like Civil Liberties and God and some babbling
nonsense about grappling with his identity and looking deeply into the
mirror of one's soul.
Fifteen minutes later the Israeli soldier was officially suing the
governor for sexual harassment.
"If you knew what I knew about the McGreevey administration,"
Senior Gack told me later, "you would tell the nation you were
cross-dressing puppy killer to avoid the truth."
"Jesus Christ," Georgetown said halfway through. "Hes
everyone hes gay to get out of this! Its genius!"
The bigger the lie, the more theyll believe it.
Hitler said that. They accused him of all kinds of things. They said
he was a monster or a mutant. But he was neither. He was a chicketshit
finger painter with a big mouth and stale ideas of genocide to sate
the ego of a broken system. He whipped up enough frenzy to begin the
Thousand Year Reich with The Big Lie and it lasted a miserable 12 years.
The Russians found his charred body near a drainage ditch in charred
Berlin and beat it with rusty chains and gun buts.
But enough about that, its more important to find out why a
governor of one of the richest states in the union would cash in his
in a national election year with half his term yet to come.
Because hes gay?
No one without dung for brains was buying it, least of all state
Republicans who screamed bloody murder when they found out McGreevey
officially turning in his papers long after the deadline to have an
emergency election, which would surely turn the reigns over to the GOP,
despite a quote from someone inside the Bush campaign that told me the
week I interviewed Ralph Nader, "They can catch John Kerry screwing
altar boy and he would carry Jersey by two million votes."
I was now officially, if not reluctantly, on the case.Part II in two
Next Week: The Republican National Convention
© James Campion September 1st 2004
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