Just say no, Rep. Condit

Outside editorial

Posted: Tuesday, December 11, 2001

This editorial appeared in today's Los Angeles Times:

No one ever accused Rep. Gary A. Condit, D-Calif., of sensitivity and discernment in his dodging of public accountability over his "very close" relationship with and the disappearance of Washington intern Chandra Levy. After all the whispers, articles and broadcast reports, unanswered questions, police searches, the melting of party and poll support, four police and FBI interviews and an ongoing grand jury investigation, the Modesto Democrat announced he'll seek an eighth term in Congress. What part of "Don't run" does he not understand?

As a professional politician, Condit seems to think the question is can he win the March 5 primary against at least eight eager challengers including a former aide. Condit's wife, Carolyn, announced her full support, which might be one vote. But the redrawn Modesto-area district contains 40 percent new voters. The congressman submitted the required petition signatures. That didn't keep Democratic Party leaders, wisely worried about losing a valuable seat in the national struggle for House control, from quietly heading toward the exits, a suggestion there will be a crippling drought of primary funds. History does show some reelections after major scandals, even deadly ones; Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's electoral success after the death of Mary Jo Kopechne is Exhibit A. But the real question is whether Condit should run again. Clearly, the answer is: No. Still. America's understandable distraction with terrorism after Sept. 11 shouldn't be misread as acceptance of Condit's behavior and persistent dissembling. Because he's no longer on Page 1 for refusing to talk forthrightly about the mysterious disappearance of a young woman is hardly reason to vote for somebody. It is, in fact, a very good reason not to vote for him. Better yet, it's a very good reason for that somebody not to run for reelection. So far, the once-rising political star has refused to hear or heed the warnings. The congressman has, perversely, grown even more defiant. " I have been mistreated in terms of my civil liberties," he told The Times' Mark Z. Barabak. He added that if anyone wants to raise questions about his relationship with Levy, "let it be on their head, not mine."

We remember another politician, also full of self-righteousness and also named Gary (Hart) who bristled at those who asked questions about so-called private matters: "Put a tail on me," he said. Someone did and the rest is history. Note to Condit: As a campaign strategy, defiance will get you only so far. Condit wants voters to look at his record. His behavior in the Levy case is part of that record.

America's understandable distraction with terrorism shouldn't be misread as acceptance of Condit's behavior and persistent dissembling.

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