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Vote For Condit Or the Girl Gets It

Dan Tortorice

If one were to have the morbid task of assembling a list of those who most benefited from the Sept. 11 attacks, at the top of the list one might likely find the name of Gary Condit, the California Congressman who was under intense media scrutiny after an affair with a 24-year-old intern and her subsequent disappearance. After the attacks, media attention was diverted. But his recent interview with a New York Times reporter confirms once again that this is a shameless man and all should hope for his resounding defeat in the upcoming Congressional election.

Many feel that Condit is vilified for his extra-marital affairs. While these affairs did not help his image, it’s the steps he took to hide these actions that are most contemptible. After Chandra Levy, the intern with whom he had the affair, disappeared, the police questioned him. It was not until his third interview that he revealed he did indeed have an affair with her. This revelation only came out after her aunt had declared, in The Washington Post, that Chandra had confessed the affair to her. Instead of cooperating fully with the police in the first interview, he led them to believe he had something to hide. The police then diverted more attention towards him and away from searching for Chandra. If he is really innocent as he claims, then he wasted police time that could have been spent finding this missing woman. Everyone knows that in a missing persons case the first couple of weeks are the most essential. But instead of helping the police, Condit decided to play games with them at this crucial moment.

Anyone who saw his interview with Connie Chung, perhaps one of the great political disasters of all time, knows his reason for not revealing the affair to the police. To paraphrase, his reason was: they didn’t ask. This is ludicrous. If I witness a robbery and happen to know the name of the robber, I still have the obligation to tell the police the name when questioned even if they don’t think to ask me if I personally knew the criminal. Condit had an obligation to reveal all pertinent facts, not just those convenient to him.

Repeatedly in the interview he refused to admit his affair with Chandra. A lot can be said for the argument that he shouldn’t have to reveal his private life on national television. But that was not the only reason he gave for not revealing the affair. He claimed that Chandra’s parents did not want him to. It is true her parents asked him not to reveal private details about his relationship with her. Obviously, the parents don’t want their daughter’s sex life described in detail on national television. However, they most likely would have welcomed Condit confirming remarks that both Chandra and her aunt had made. In short, confirming that the two had not in fact lied. This seems the most reasonable interpretation of Mr. and Mrs. Levy’s request and is the one they affirmed in their reaction to the interview. But instead Condit willfully misinterpreted their comments to him for his own benefit.

I would be happy to let the Condit issue die if he would be willing to let the issue die as well. But, as evidenced by this New York Times interview, he refuses to acknowledge his wrongdoing and instead has elevated himself to the status of a martyr. He actually compared himself to Muhammad Ali after seeing the movie starring Will Smith. Condit claims just as Muhammad Ali stuck to his principles, opposition to an unjust war, he stuck to his principles and now is being persecuted for them. What principles are these? The principles that say it’s okay to endanger the life of a young woman you had an intimate relationship with to avoid embarrassment, or for your political aides to ask another woman you had an affair with to obstruct justice by lying to the police? Condit is as far from Ali as Marie Antoinette was from Mother Teresa.

But the interview only gets better. He goes on to say that it was lucky for Chandra that she was sleeping with him when she disappeared because his prestige as Congressman is the only thing that has kept the police looking for her. Then he uses this fact as a reason to vote for him. In the interview he says: “I may be the best hope they have to keep the issue alive. Somebody else gets elected -- you probably won’t hear much about Chandra.’’

I’m sure her parents are so grateful. First this 53-year-old man had an affair with their 24-year-old daughter. Then when she disappeared he hid the affair from them and from the police, possibly impeding their investigation, until he was no longer able to hide the information. The point here is not that Condit is wrong. In fact his power may have made the investigation more thorough. It’s that a man who has the audacity to make such a point, after all he has done to mislead the Levy family, is a man of poor moral character.

You can imagine that if you were Chandra’s mother or father you would have some horrible things to say about Condit. And in fact her father does. “It’s painful to see him out there acting like he’s a compassionate human being,’’ he says, “like he’s a real human being.’’

This New York Times interview followed Condit around on his reelection campaign. It’s hard to imagine that such an unpopular person would even contemplate running for reelection. Condit not only contemplated it, he did it. This might make sense if other people supported his campaign, but in fact he is facing overwhelming opposition. In the current polls he is trailing his opponent in the Democratic primary by almost 30 points. All major figures in the Democratic Party, including some that were formerly personal friends, have withdrawn support for him. The only one who wants Condit to win is Condit.

Despite this opposition, he is still campaigning. When asked why, he repeats that he must stand up for his principles. To stand up and say that “the game” the media wanted to play with him was wrong and “not good for America.” How convenient it is for him to say this, when what is bad for America is also so bad for Gary Condit.