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What's Condit's definition of 'moral'?

Posted: Tuesday, August 28, 2001

Those who are truly good at something -- heart surgery, performance art, writing, athletics -- make it look so easy that other, less talented people sometimes think they can do as well. How else did karaoke catch on?

In his interview with ABC's Connie Chung, Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif., apparently believed that if he were coached by media managers, like Bill Clinton, and by attorneys who would help him evade the truth, like Clinton, the results would be the same as they were for Clinton, who made lying look easy. After all, if Clinton could mostly escape accountability for his actions, why shouldn't Condit believe he could do the same?

Trouble is, we know Bill Clinton, we've seen him at work, and Congressman Condit, you're no Bill Clinton.

Condit got the direct denials out of the way quickly. He said he had no idea what happened to Chandra Levy, had nothing to do with her disappearance, didn't cause anyone to harm her and had no idea if anyone wanted to harm her. Neither, he said, did he kill her.

When Chung got to the sex part, Condit tried dissembling like Clinton but without the phony hubris and false honesty Clinton successfully employed for a while: "Well, Connie, I've been married for 34 years, and I've not been a perfect man, and I've made my share of mistakes. But, um, out of respect for my family, and out of a specific request from the Levy family, I think it's best that I not get into those details uh, about Chandra Levy."

Out of respect for his family? We already know how much Condit respected his family by the way he carried on with other women not his wife. It's a little late to invoke respect when one has behaved like a priest at a fertility shrine. As for the Levy family, the attorney for Chandra's parents, Billy Martin, says Dr. and Mrs. Levy are outraged by Condit's remarks and believe he is "hiding something."

Martin says Condit was not telling the truth when he claimed in the ABC interview that he told the Levys the nature of his relationship with their daughter.

Washington, D.C., police also disputed Condit's assertion that he had fully cooperated with investigators. Martin does say Mrs. Levy said she didn't want to know the details of any sordid affair. However, that hardly qualifies as a formal request by the Levys authorizing Condit to clam up.

Condit claimed Mrs. Levy "misunderstood" the conversations he had with her. She "made a lot of statements," he said, and "my job was to console and do what I could do to be helpful." Your responsibility, Congressman, was to tell Mrs. Levy how you had taken advantage of her daughter and to share every shred of information that might help locate Chandra.

So, who is more credible? The Washington, D.C., police and the Levy family, who have nothing to hide and no career and family to hold together, or Gary Condit?

Condit also denied authorizing a statement which was allegedly faxed by his attorney to flight attendant Ann Marie Smith, who claims she had a year-long affair with Condit. The congressman characterized the statement as "lawyer-to-lawyer" and not only denied having anything to do with it but blamed Smith for fabricating the story of an affair in order to "take advantage of tragedy."

How credible is that, when Smith provided Fox News Channel's Rita Cosby with phone records listing the same numbers that appeared on Chandra Levy's phone records? Smith no doubt was asked to describe for investigators what the inside of Condit's apartment looked like. Unless she was there, she must be clairvoyant to know such details.

When Chung asked Condit if he thought he was a "moral man," he answered, "yes." Bill Clinton probably would have responded in like manner. I guess it just depends on your definition of the word "moral."

Cal Thomas writes for Tribune Media Services.



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