Waiting for the Moral
July 10, 2001
Gary Condit, the suddenly famous California Democrat, may dispute the
Madison Avenue adage that theres no such thing as bad publicity. If each of
us has a birthright of 15 minutes of fame, this isnt the kind most of us
would choose. By now it must seem to Condit more like a half hour.
For readers who have spent the last few
weeks on a life raft, a good-looking young female intern sound familiar?
who worked for Condit vanished on April 30, just after her job expired.
Inevitably, there was murmured speculation that hed been having an affair
with the intern, Chandra Levy, 24. Condit, 53, who is married, denied it. Then
another woman, an airline stewardess, said shed had an affair
with him and that hed asked her to sign an affidavit denying their
liaison to the FBI, which was investigating Chandras disappearance.
It also transpired that Condit was a habitual
philanderer. Then one of Chandras relatives said Chandra herself had
confided that shed been having a secret amour with Condit. Meanwhile, it
turned out that Chandra had been making phone calls to Condits private
By now it was a big tabloid story. Then it
spread into the major news media. It got even bigger when Condit finally admitted
to the Washington police that his relations with Chandra had been
romantic, as they say, which by now most people had figured out
anyway. Who believes a politicians denials? He denied having broken off the
affair before her disappearance, but he admitted having last spoken to her on April
29, not, as hed earlier said, April 25 or 26.
As the Democrats say,
everyone lies about sex. This may not be true, but it at least suggests that illicit
sex and associated prevarications are considered normal behavior among
Democrats. This is, after all, the party of Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson, Christopher
Dodd, Gary Hart, Barney Frank, Gerry Studds, and too many Kennedys to mention.
But they can still get mighty steamed up over the charge that Clarence Thomas
talked dirty to Anita Hill.
Guilty people lie, at any rate, and they
especially lie about murder. If Chandra is hiding out somewhere, she is putting her
parents through a continuing agony. Hardly conceivable. If she killed herself, how
did she contrive to make her body disappear? If she happened to die to
posit an unlikely coincidence at the hands of a random street criminal,
why would he, not knowing or caring who she was, bother concealing her remains?
And if Gary Condit had nothing to do with her
disappearance, why has he so consistently acted guilty? If his worst sin was
adultery, why didnt he come clean about what was bound to come out
anyway? Shades of Clinton: when he persists in evasion even when it hurts him,
its hard to resist the inference that he cant afford to tell the full
The Washington police, who have been saying
that Condit isnt a suspect (they still have no positive evidence of a crime),
are now saying they plan to search his apartment. So far Condit has been
cooperative, though his lawyer expresses indignation at invasions of his private
life. But Chandras parents, demanding a full investigation, have hired a
lawyer and a publicity team to turn up the heat. Publicity has turned out not to be
a problem. Camera crews have been staking out Condits home.
The major media have been uncertain about
how to handle this story. They werent sure whether it belonged with
serious news about spies and earthquakes or with Julia
Robertss latest breakup. At first they left it to the tabloids; then they
picked it up tactfully, giving Condit, so far as was possible, the benefit of every
doubt just as, in other scandals, they had tried to avoid hasty judgments of
O.J. Simpson and Bill Clinton. Finally it became an irresistible and portentous
mystery. The solution may yield not only facts but a moral to ponder.
Whatever the truth is, Gary Condit knows more
about it than he has told so far. Like so many other of our elected representatives,
he has proved himself a rat and maybe the end-product of the political
culture of the New Morality, in which honor means nothing.