There’s something about those boys from New Jersey, right?
A little bit naughty, a little bit wild, and a whole lot of that special something that makes you want to stay close, even though you suspect he’s nothing but trouble. Even when you see where this is all going, even when you recognize how wrong he is and how foolish you are, you can’t let go.
I’m not talking about Bruce or Bon Jovi or even Frank: these are our icons. As for the swaggering beach bums, hot-shot lawyers and wanna-be Manhattan power-brokers, a smart Jersey girl knows what is what. But then along comes one or two of these fellas, promising the moon–and you believe it. Or at least I did.
I guess that’s how these guys get elected.
Governor McGreevey–Jim–was a real charmer, with his ebullient manner and boyish grin. He’s just gotten married to a striking but reserved woman; had a baby daughter, and then,there he was: the young new governor of New Jersey. I was an emotionally roiled widow trying to keep busy. Jim offered me the opportunity by making me the Governor’s liaison to the 9/11 families.
Jim and I were once close
Sure, the pay was low, the hours were long and the clientele was demanding. But the perks turned my head: breakfast at the governor’s mansion, calls from his private cell phone, rides in the state limousine—once I was driven from a meeting in Manhattan to one in central New Jersey by state troopers slashing through rush-hour traffic at 100 mph, lights flashing and siren wailing. Turns out our state troopers liked to put the pedal to the metal.
I suspected Jim had a secret life, but I didn’t think it involved massively poor judgment until I learned that it did: he’d hired his male lover at an impressive salary to serve as director of security although the man had little experience save one mandatory stint in the Israeli Army. I watched the press conference, in which he announced he was a “gay American” and ignored the question of public salaries for unqualified friends, with sadness. I wanted him to call. Not long after his press conference, he separated from his wife, Dina. They wrote books, hers and his mortifyingly entitled The Confession; he moved in with a new friend and studied to be an Episcopalian priest.
He never called again…and that hurt most of all.
Then there was the Senator who would be governor. Jon radiated quiet stability and good intentions.When he decided to run for governor, I was there, squirming at the obscene amounts of money going into the election (could several poor nations be sustained for that kind of cash?), but ever faithful. I was also there for his inaugural, and for the fancy dress ball, during which time I got another big hug and a whispered admonition to “call and schedule a meeting,” and at his straightforward State of the State address, where he was applauded for his honesty.
Jon’s administration, including his communications department, was as closed as Jim’s had been open. But I still believed in him—for a time. I still accepted the hugs and got a little tingly when he reminded me that we were going to meet to talk about my working in his administration (I never reminded him that his people were stonewalling me). But I tried not to take it to heart: I knew it was never going to happen. Not that he didn’t need help: his public persona was taking a beating. Not that he didn’t need help: his public persona was taking a beating. He was accused of being indifferent, weak, out of touch and prone to making bad decision. Meanwhile his seatbelt-free accident (another hard-driving state trooper) and his post-divorce relationship with Carla, a powerful union leader and prototype Jersey Girl, were the kinds of incidents that were getting him press.
I ran into him just before he was soundly defeated in our last election. He seemed resigned to the possibility he might lose and talked about working as an Ambassador. He wanted, he said, to stay in public service.
Speaking of resignation: Jon left public life to return to the private sector that had earned him millions, although apparently not much of a reputation as a smart leader. Last week, following a scandal about missing money at MF Global, the firm he headed for several years, Jon resigned, forgoing the 12 million dollar golden parachute. Although he is not suspected of misappropriating any funds, he stands accused in business circles of making supremely bad decisions. Maybe we all did.
Jim, Jon…and don’t get me started on Bob, AKA “The Torch.” These boys make it so hard to be a Democrat in New Jersey. You know what I’m sayin’.
Maybe that’s why I had my eye on Chris. I was careful; we came from different backgrounds, after all. Still, I warmed to his outgoing nature, I admired his spunk, I was willing to cut the guy some slack and see how he applied his independent spirit and can-do attitude to governing our troubled state. I was, for a brief moment, almost proud of a Jersey boy.
Shades of Rudy Giuliani! Turns out Chris is more pig-headed than tough; a bully, in fact, who enjoys talking tough and favors a sledgehammer where a paring knife might do. Although he began as a moderate, he’s been side-stepping to the right, more than willing to pander to his national party’s fringes to gain a platform. He also likes to flirt long and hard before letting his supporters down, but by the time he nearly ran as a Presidential primary candidate, I was so over him.
This week, I’ll be interviewing my local Congressman for Does This Make Sense. Rush is smart, compassionate, loyal and progressive. Everyone around these parts loves him. I’m approaching cuatiously nonetheless. I can’t afford more heartbreak at the hands of another Jersey Boy.