AUGUST 27, 2001
Condirt soils the sheets
© 2001

A great deal of copy has been written in the wake of the pathetic, awful, embarrassing Gary Condit prime-time implosion.

I had hoped that I could avoid writing about the Modesto Myopia. There is so much more significant news which deserves comment and analysis: the Klamath basin land and water grab, the potential FBI reorganization, the Clinton/Barak conversation about Marc Rich's pardon, the Fed's interest-rate cut, the president's illegal alien finesse, the IRS preemptive spin control as prelude to the September Bob Schulz "tax honesty" hearings in D.C., China, Russia, the Mideast. ...

Do readers really need yet another brick added to the mausoleum of Gary Condit's political career?

Well, in the words of a certain besieged California congressman residing in the state of denial, "I hope you also will understand that I am not perfect and have made my share of mistakes."

Gary Condit is not the first or last congressman to find himself in a whirlpool of scandal. However, he may have distinguished himself as doing the worst job of defending the indefensible to date. Bill Clinton, Wilbur Mills and Bob Packwood all seem likeable compared to the callous, Ionesco-ish theater of the absurd presented on ABC Thursday night.

OK, so Condit was between the rock and the hard place -- he put himself there, and there are consequences to what we do and don't do, even for Democrat politicians lacking the grace to go away.

No doubt Condit's lawyers were telling him, "Gary just shut up. Stay silent. You can't be corrected or accused of anything you don't say. Ride it out. People have short memories. You can outlast this mess until some newer fresher scandal creates a new news cycle. Keep your mouth shut."

However, his political advisers had to be screaming at him, "Gary you have to say something! We're getting killed in polls. The party can't get any ink on our agenda; we can't get any traction criticizing the president's agenda. Only you can stop this juggernaut momentum. Your constituents love you. Talk to them!"

The conventional political-adviser opinion may have been that Condit was only making matters worse by his silence. That was, until Thursday night.

Condit made Bill Clinton look honest and forthcoming. His performance appeared to have been scripted and managed by Newt Gingrich.

According to Gary, you don't understand -- he can't imagine why the D.C. police, the Levy parents, Anne Marie Smith and virtually anyone and everyone who has articulated a single word about his travails is lying. Only he is being honest. However, he is incapable of convincing even a rabid, knuckle-dragging partisan like his own House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt. Gephardt has been almost blindly supportive of Condit in the past. He said on national TV he believed Gary had cooperated in the search for Levy and that he was "a man of honor."

However, nothing in politics is as permanent as change. In the wake of Condit squandering his big opportunity at damage control, Dicky has announced a "do-over." Gephardt told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "I do not believe he was candid and forward" in the ABC interview. "He stayed in this zone of being evasive. ... I didn't hear candor, I didn't hear an apology." Ouch! But it gets worse for Condit cover.

Gephardt said he would talk to House colleagues about what steps to take -- and that might include making Condit relinquish his seat on the important House Intelligence Committee.

"What he said last night was disturbing and wrong," Gephardt said. "I think it fell way short. It all adds to the general perception that politics are no-good and politicians are a bunch of bums." And that was the unforgivable tragic flaw that will drive the final nail in Condit's political coffin.

Condit's chaos has now spread to the territorial imperative of his colleagues. That will not stand.

To the Democrats, Gary Condit has become a booger on the end of their finger they need to shake off. But when and how?

Condit didn't just choke in the Connie Chung interview. He also exposed himself to potential legal hassles he could have and should have eliminated.

During the Clinton-Lewinsky crisis, it was Gary Condit who presumed to tell Clinton to "tell all." Instead of the embarrassing robotic responses to Chung's queries about his "relationship" with Chandra, Condit could have and should have played the Jimmy Swaggart gambit:

"Connie, I had an inappropriate and intimate sexual relationship with Chandra Levy. I am inimitably sorry and apologize to everyone affected and have fallen on my knees and prayed to God asking for His infinite mercy that I do not deserve."

Or, he could have said what Clinton probably wanted to:

"I have had a longtime problem with women. I can't get enough of them. I am a cad, and a womanizer. What are you doing after the taping?"

Clinton was, and is, a liar. However, Bill Clinton is a skilled, charming, and articulate liar. Michael Kramer in his Connie/Gary postmortem had a classic observation in his N.Y. Daily News column when he noted, "Maybe he believes he's as clever as Clinton, that if Clinton could get away with it, he can, too. But that's a high bar: We know Bill Clinton, and Gary Condit is no Bill Clinton."

Now we have a Condit lawyer equivocating on the definition of "no."

Damage control Abbe Lowell told Larry King that his client did not mean to say "no," categorically ruling out a link to a flight attendant who claimed a long-time affair.

See, Condit did not consider he had a "relationship" with Anne Marie Smith. He was merely using her as a receptacle for his lust. Just as Clinton and Gingrich "explained" the semantic and religious distinctions between intercourse and sodomy, Condit apparently distinguishes between "relationship" and "having relations." (Guys don't try this at home with your wives. These men are professionals. This gambit will not work for wannabe philanderers.)

Very soon Gary Condit will have a private, behind-closed-doors meeting with his one-time friends and colleagues, and they will "explain" to him how and why he will resign. It will be "For the good of the party, for the good of the 18th Congressional District, and for the good of his family."

Condit will be discarded like a shedded snakeskin and deposited in a heap with the careers and reputations of Bob Packwood (who apparently never did close a deal), Wilbur Mills, et al.

Only Bill Clinton, and Ted Kennedy get to sin and prosper. As the New York Daily News says, "We know Bill Clinton, and Gary Condit is no Bill Clinton."