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disgraced U.S. Congressman
questioned in death of his illicit lover, intern Chandra Levy
Gary Condit: U.S. Representative from California; son of a Baptist minister; outwardly purported himself to be a practicing Baptist, despite his lifestyle; famous for his role in the disappearance of Washington intern Chandra Levy. In what became the biggest crime story of the year, Condit was suspected of murdering Levy and hiding her body in order to cover up his adulterous affair with her. For months Levy's body could not be found. Physical evidence pointing to the identity of her killer was lacking, and neither Condit nor anybody else (such as an accomplice) was ever indicted. Although Condit escaped criminal prosecution, the scandal led to him losing his long-held congressional seat when he subsequently ran for reelection.
Gary Condit: The Most Despised Man in America
16 July 2001 - Nobody is more hated in this country right now than Gary Condit.
Polls show opinion about him getting more negative every day. Hardly anybody trusts him. The majority of Americans think he had something to do with intern Chandra Levy's disappearance. Few people think he can ever be re-elected to office. Hopefully by the time elections come around, he won't even consider running. He would simply by an embarrassment to the Democratic party in a congressional district which is heavily conservative.
Condit has become a pariah. The only people who consistently defend him are his attorneys -- and they're paid to do so. They don't count. Even Condit's family has been completely silent. When a man's parents or spouse defends him, it hardly counts, either. Even the worst serial killers often have mothers who protest their son's incarceration or execution. But, interestingly enough, Condit doesn't even have that.
Timothy McVeigh was the most hated man in America. But he's dead now. His title has fallen to Gary Condit. McVeigh in no way should be compared to Condit. His actions were many orders of magnitude worse than anything Condit has even been accused of, much less convicted of. Their crimes are very, very different. They are two very different people. Their only link is that, at various times, they have been the most hated man in America.
On the other hand, at least McVeigh had honor. He had a twisted sense of honor that was difficult for many Americans to understand. His sense of honor caused untold harm. But he did have honor. Condit doesn't even have that.
Hatred (or, for people who, on religious grounds, do not hate, "intense dislike or disapproval") of Gary Condit crosses all demographic barriers. When O.J. Simpson was on trial for hacking two people to death, many African-Americans came to his defense because Simpson is black. Some people felt that the case was tinged with racism. Simpson also retained popularity because of his career as a football star and a movie star.
But Condit is not black. He is white, and white Americans do not defend each other simply on the basis of race. (Nor should they.) Condit has never been a professional athlete or movie star. He has been a politician during his entire adult life. That is not exactly a career causes people to rally to one's defense.
Condit doesn't really belong to any minority that will gain him any sympathy. He isn't gay. He isn't handicapped. Perhaps worst of all, for him, he is a Baptist. It is often unfairly the case, but Baptists are one of the most hated religious minorities in the country. Americans are expected to tolerate, and admire religious every minority from Anglicans to Zoroastrians, but Baptists seem to be fair game for ridicule, particularly by America's intellectual elite. Worse, Condit is the son of a fundamentalist Baptist. He isn't some middle-of-the-road liberal to moderate Baptist like Jimmy Carter. He's a Fundamentalist.
Which would be fine, really, if he were being criticized for doing something Baptist-like. At least Baptists would like him, and there are a lot of Baptists in the country -- between 10 and 15 percent of the U.S. population. If Condit were accused of protecting the freedom of religion, or quoting the Bible, or praying in public, or even boycotting Disneyland, at least other Baptists would defend him. But no serious Baptist is going to defend him now. Whatever their actual behavior, neither liberal nor conservative Baptists defend serial adultery, and certainly they don't defend kidnapping and murder. (Condit has NOT been indicted for any such crimes, let's remember, except in the public consciousness.)
(Let's also remember that many fine Americans have been Baptists: vice-president Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, singer Glenn Campbell, actor Chuck Norris, President Harry S. Truman and golfer Payne Stewart, for example. Most Baptists are NOT adulterers like Jesse Jackson, Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton. One of the nation's most famous Baptists certainly had flaws, but he still managed to accomplish immeasurable good for the country: Martin Luther King, Jr.)
Certainly Condit will receive no sympathy from Jews. Chandra Levy, by all accounts, came from a nice Jewish family. Many Jews are Democrats, as is Condit, but that doesn't mean a thing when one of your own is used like a cheap piece of meat and then (possibly) violently discarded. As for people who actually take seriously their religious commandments against extra-marital sex, whether they be Muslims or Orthodox Jews or Latter-day Saints or practicing Catholics or Baha'is or Seventh-day Adventists or whoever--they don't think that Condit's sexual escapades are "no big deal." They are offended, and they won't be jumping to Condit's defense.
Religious people won't defend Condit. Nor will anti-religious people. Atheists already disliked Condit because he so frequently invoked God in his speeches, so publicly professed to being a believer. Given what he has done, it is difficult to believe he had any belief whatsoever in God. Condit's actions show he felt no responsibility to God or to society. He answered to nobody but himself. But if he was a closet atheist it just means he was a hypocrite. Atheists will argue that Condit isn't one of them, but theists won't claim him either. Neither will agnostics.
Most women recognize Condit for what he is -- a womanizer who used women for his own twisted power kicks and sexual fulfillment. Nobody honestly believes Condit actually cared about any of the women he bedded. He didn't truly care or respect the intern, the stewardess, or the teenage daughter of a Pentecostal minister. His wife? I don't know. If Condit truly cared about his wife, he had an odd way of showing it.
Republicans have no reason to defend Condit: he is a Democrat. Democrats have no reason to defend him: he is a conservative, and an embarrassment to the party, particularly after he so loudly protested when President Clinton was accused of exactly the same things that he has done.
Womanizers? Maybe womanizers can sympathize with Condit. But this won't do him any good. There isn't any kind of womanizing lobby to issue press releases and protests and send representatives to the talk shows. They're a silent constituency. Left-handed Chinese firefighters have more voice in Washington. And the truth is, despite what some salacious commentators have said, there just aren't that many of them, compared to other demographic groups. Condit is a very attractive, debonaire man with a desirable position of power. Most of us don't have any of those things going for us. There are only a few hundred U.S. Representatives, and probably less than 5% of American men Condit's age are as attractive as he is. Even the most morally bankrupt of men don't like Condit, if for no other reason than they're envious of his good looks and charm.
But most importantly, even adulterers such as Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton have one important distinction that sets them apart from Gary Condit: They didn't impede an investigation into the disappearance of a missing woman. And they certainly didn't kill anybody.
If Gary Condit has done nothing other than the things he has already admitted to (his adultery and lying, and obstruction of justice), he deserves to be permanently rejected from U.S. political life. And if he (as many suspect) killed Chandra Levy and hid her body where no one will ever find it, he deserves much, much worse.
Condit soundly defeatedBy: Robert Salladay
Date: 6 March 2002
Source:San Francisco Chronicle
Modesto -- Amid personal scandal and bitterness toward the media, Rep. Gary Condit's three decades in politics ended Tuesday as his former protege and friend, Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza, handily won the Democratic nomination to represent the Central Valley in Congress.
Voters were unwilling to put aside Condit's personal behavior following the disappearance last spring of Chandra Levy, the 24-year-old Washington, D.C., intern who reportedly was Condit's mistress. While answering nearly every other question, the congressman consistently refused to characterize his relationship with Levy but vehemently denied he had anything to do with her disappearance.
Cardoza will face Republican state Sen. Dick Monteith in the November general election. As expected, Monteith soundly defeated his main GOP rival, Modesto City Councilman Bill Conrad, in the Republican primary yesterday.
Condit spent election day walking door to door in his district, starting in Merced County and arriving at his single-story home in Ceres in the evening as friends greeted him with food from a local restaurant.
Later, he emerged from his home and thanked campaign supporters but did not concede.
"I want to thank voters of the 18th Congressional District for allowing me to serve in Congress for 11 years," Condit said. "It will be 12 years before I finish. A lot of people throughout 18th District worked real hard. I appreciate their support, their love. I will never forget that."
Cardoza took the stage in Modesto almost at the same time and declared victory.
"Today the people of the Central Valley stood up for values," he said.
"When I entered the race five months ago I promised you I would run a positive campaign; I would work hard and I would focus on the values of the Central Valley," Cardoza said before thanking Condit for "30 strong years for the people of our valley."
Cardoza wished Condit and his family well, but when Condit's son and campaign manager, Chad, was asked if his father and Cardoza would make amends, he replied, "No way."
Levy's parents, who live in Modesto, declined to get involved in the race and refused to comment yesterday. Fresh yellow ribbons were tied to every telephone and mailbox in the Levys' neighborhood.
CARDOZA NEVER MENTIONED LEVY
Cardoza never mentioned the Levy controversy in his campaign ads or brochures, in part because the media stepped into that role for him.
Cardoza, in fact, didn't run much of a campaign. He skipped nearly a dozen debates and spent much of his time in Sacramento and at fund-raisers. Condit, meanwhile, ran an intense ground-level campaign that included phone banks, neighborhood chats, candidate forums and knocking on doors.
The 18th Congressional District, which was redrawn last year, stretches from Fresno to Stockton. It leans Democratic in party registration, but its politics are relatively conservative. Cardoza, like Condit, is a moderate with a voting record closely tied to the district's Democrats and even Republicans.
It was impossible to find anyone in Condit's district who didn't have a scripted opinion about their congressman. In interviews yesterday, it came down to whether Condit should be forgiven or punished.
"Every time you look at him, it just reminds you of Chandra Levy," said Luis Rose, 66, a former Condit supporter who voted for Cardoza yesterday.
But Jacob Thomas, also of Ceres, said he could not care less about Condit's personal conduct. He agreed with Condit's view that 30 years of public service was more important than finding out intimate details about Condit's relationship with Levy.
WHERE CONDIT DID WELL
Condit polled strongly in portions of his old district, especially in Stanislaus County. Large portions of Fresno and San Joaquin counties that were added to the district strongly favored Cardoza.
With Condit's failure, the 18th District has lost another congressman to scandal. In 1989, then-Rep. Tony Coelho resigned before facing a possible ethics probe over a loan he received from a junk bond trader.
Coelho, also a Democrat, later was exonerated by the Justice Department, but his abrupt resignation paved the way for Condit to enter Congress during a special election. He served for the past 11 years.
Condit, 53, has said he might return to his blue-collar roots or perhaps do something outdoors if he lost. He has considered taking up welding again. "I'm not a pretentious man," he has said.
But Condit also said he will be waiting for the media to call in shame when the Levy case is finally solved. In an interview with The Chronicle before the election, a wrathful Condit said the media trampled his civil rights, and when "the truth is told, I'll still be standing."
"The fact of the matter is when you know the truth, you should have no fear," Condit said. "I have no fear, and the truth hopefully will become evident."
The son of an evangelical Baptist minister, Condit moved to the Central Valley from Oklahoma when he was 19. He brought along his young wife, Carolyn, his father and his son, Chad.
PART OF 'GANG OF FIVE'
The year Condit graduated from college, 1972, he was elected to the Ceres City Council. At age 34, Condit got elected to the state Assembly and soon found himself aligned with a moderate "Gang of Five" that challenged the leadership of then-Speaker Willie Brown.
Condit's close friendships with California leaders, including Gov. Gray Davis, and his congressional colleagues soured after the Levy case exploded in the national media and Condit faced unprecedented scrutiny. His fund-raising dried up and he was forced to loan his campaign $50,000 in the final weeks.
Two nationally televised interviews, one with Connie Chung and another with Larry King, appear to have hurt Condit because he came off as evasive about his relationship. Condit said it was nobody's business except police and his family.
File last modified 20 April 2007.
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