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Garden variety scandals

John Everett | Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Being from New Jersey, state pride has never really been my thing. Don’t get me wrong, I love my state, and if I can ever afford to live there in a place other than my parents’ house I’d certainly love to. But for all the things to love about New Jersey, from Bruce Springsteen to the three-time Stanley Cup winning New Jersey Devils to diners at nearly every mile mark on every major highway, it just never occurred to me to think of New Jersey as better than any other state. The school system is only, as the state’s commercials tell me, “one of the top two in the nation.”

I think the lack of enthusiasm might have to do with the fact that the Garden State is rather dominated by the lurking giant right above, New York. All my life I’ve watched sitcoms on New York television affiliates, I’ve listened to New York radio stations and read New York newspapers. I’ve even rooted for New York sports teams, like the Giants and Mets (I’m not much of a hockey fan).

However, there has always been one area in which I have always considered New Jersey vastly superior to the Empire State, and though recent headlines might make some reconsider the rankings, I for one refuse to relinquish New Jersey’s claim as the home of the most corrupt and scandalous state politicians in the country.

The immoral acts engaged in by Eliot Spitzer at the Emperor’s Club, the details of which are fresh enough in the public conscious as to spare their retelling here, are appalling. A rising star in the Democratic Party has crashed, and a life’s work spent prosecuting those who broke the law is irredeemably tarnished. In addition to all this, the Spitzer case has once again shown how we in America, in the words of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, are “defining deviancy down.” Here is a man who commits adultery with a prostitute, violating the sacred trust of marriage, and the only thing anyone seems to want to talk about is whether or not Spitzer should have paid the extra few thousand to move up from a four-diamond hooker to a seven.

Coupled with the Spitzer scandal is the news which broke just a few hours after David Paterson’s inauguration as the new governor. After a scandal on the magnitude of the Spitzer affair, New Yorkers may understandably have been looking for a calm transition, and for promises of a cleaner and more responsible government. So of course, nearly the first thing Gov. Paterson does is tell the first reporter he can find that he spent almost three years in relationships with women other than his wife. Presumably, the fact that money was not exchanged makes Paterson a champion of the people.

However, I fear that the media and you, the media-influenced public, might be too caught up in the here-and-now, and be somewhat forgetful of the not-so-far-from-here-and-now. After all, it has only been four years since the governor of my proud state resigned in order to get in front of the story about how he hired his completely unqualified gay lover to be his Homeland Security adviser at a yearly salary of $110,000 a year, despite the fact that Louis Freeh, the former head of the FBI, volunteered to do the job for free. Gov. McGreevy apparently thought that the fact that Golan Cipel was from Israel would be enough to satisfy everyone in the state that he was qualified to advise the governor in the event of a terrorist attack. Like in the Spitzer case, there was the pathetic spectacle of McGreevy and his wife standing together at a podium, refusing to directly answer questions or fully admit wrongdoing. But here’s where New Jersey’s expertise in all matters salacious comes into play: Rather than just resigning effective shortly thereafter, McGreevy announced that his resignation would not take place for three whole months. Why? Why, to deny the voters of New Jersey the chance to choose his replacement in a special election, of course! You see in New Jersey, we only let the voters decide who should be in office when all other alternatives have been exhausted.

I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of my home state than I was the other day when former Gov. McGreevy, now of all things a divinity student in an Episcopal seminary, in an effort to keep the scandal-crown in New Jersey, said not so fast New York. You see, he wasn’t just cheating on his wife with a state employee, no. He was having wild sex parties which involved his wife.

Honestly, it’s like McGreevy was standing up and saying, just try and top that, Paterson. Or maybe he was just trying to publicly embarrass his wife before the upcoming custody hearing over their daughter Jacqueline, while also trying to depress sales of her book. Either way, it makes my heart stir with pride to be from New Jersey, where we have perfected career-ending scandal.

John Everett is a senior English major. He is thought to be somewhere between 21 and 45 years of age. He is armed only with a sharp wit and is considered cantankerous. If you have any information regarding his whereabouts, please contact jeverett@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.