Will Time Heal Gary Condit's Wounds?
By Bonnie Chernin Rogoff
Founder, Jews For Life
August 3, 2001
It's painful to write this, but in spite of what unfolds each day in the media, little has changed in the Chandra Levy case. She is still missing, and Gary Condit remains evasive, avoiding a press conference. To date, he has not fully cooperated with the D.C. police or the FBI. He was interviewed a fourth time to provide a personality profile on Chandra to help police. His attorney, Abbe Lowell, says his client answered every question, but here's one I haven't heard:
Rep. Condit, why do you appear relaxed and cheerful when a young woman you supposedly had some feelings for, is still missing?
Now there's a question I'd like answered.
The only significant change comes from Gary Condit's hometown. An uncomfortable hush is emanating from Modesto, California, the very district that Gary Condit represents. In the beginning, we were treated to news interviews with some of his constituents. At that time, they voiced understandable disgust that their Congressman would dishonor his office by having an affair with a young girl, and possibly be guilty of obstructing justice as per a flight attendant's revelations.
Little information was available that offered a profile into Condit's character. We now have more insight, based upon bits and pieces of the case released each day. We know about the discarded watch box, dumped in another town prior to his apartment search. Carolyn Condit and Chandra Levy may have had a serious telephone altercation right before Chandra went missing. We know Gary Condit refused to take an FBI polygraph, and now the police want to give his wife a lie detector test.
I judge a man by his actions, and Gary Condit's evasive conduct still tells me he's hiding something. As more damaging information is released pointing to Condit as the only logical suspect in Chandra's disappearance, he goes about his business with a great big smile, and the people in his district follow suit.
What's going on here?
Like every other personal crisis involving our seasoned politicians, time heals all wounds. The story plays out, and the public adjusts and absorbs the sordid details, becoming immune to their representative's misconduct. This adaptation process happened with Clinton's impeachment. Remember how Americans showed initial revulsion at Clinton's sexually immoral behavior, but then polls showed his adoring fans adjusted to the Monica scandal as Bill Clinton's impeachment hearings progressed? By the time it was evident Clinton lied under oath and obstructed justice, his popular rating soared. People seem immune when their elected officials disgrace themselves publicly. As in the Lewinsky scandal, the media frenzy is driving the Chandra Levy story to the ground. This is wrong. It is his supporters in California District 18 who should be demanding Condit explain himself in a press conference. If he can't, or won't, he should step down and resign.
It seems very strange that while Chandra Levy is missing for so long, Gary Condit's attitude remains so callous and indifferent to the Levy family's despair. Check out the Modesto Bee and read the letters, and you'll find a gradual shift in readers' sympathies. Many are now criticizing the Levy family for not coming forward sooner. Some complain that other missing person cases deserve equal attention, but don't get it because a Congressman is not involved. Few demand Condit's resignation.
If Gary Condit does resign, it will not be by his constituents' demands but by party leaders, among whom he's losing favor. The bad press surrounding him and lingering negative national sentiments may compound his problems, but I doubt it (a new Fox poll shows that nationally, most Americans don't believe Condit is telling what he knows and would prefer he resign). Now the Levy family may be seeking a civil suit against him. However, little can be done for them. If Chandra is not found, everything in this case remains circumstantial. The police have done their pathetic superficial three-hour search two months too late, and all physical evidence has been exhausted.
For the record, I'd be shocked if Chandra Levy were found alive. It would mean she was abducted and has been held all this time without a word. How likely is that? I'm just wondering how long it will take for the D.C. police to change the status of her case from "missing," to "presumed dead."
From a public relations perspective, it really won't matter. Chandra is gone; at some point the public will yawn and forget she ever existed. After all, you can't miss what you've never seen. Gary Condit hurt the investigation, and wounded the Levy family. Before long, he will be forgiven. How do I know? The people of Modesto, California told me so. They spoke loud and clear in their silence. And they are the ones who vote for the guy.
Copyright 2001 by Bonnie Chernin Rogoff. Not to be reproduced in any fashion, in whole or in part, without written consent from the author. All rights reserved.