Condit dug his own grave

Tim Paluch

There has been a lot of moaning and groaning about the media coverage surrounding the case of Chandra Levy, the missing Washington D.C. intern.

Some say the media has blown things way out of proportion, focusing on the trials and tribulations of Gary Condit instead of on the missing intern.

In a way, this is true. In the three months since the story broke, the mainstream media has gone from reporting the Chandra Levy case to reporting how the media is covering the Chandra Levy case to reporting how the media is covering the coverage of the Chandra Levy case.

That being said, if it wasn’t for the way the media is covering this case, Condit wouldn’t have been investigated to the point where he finally admitted to having an affair with Levy.

There is a very good reason why the focus of the Chandra Levy investigation is pointed at Condit. The man is a self-centered, egotistical womanizer who, for over two months, lied about his involvement with Levy to D.C. police in order to save his image.

Condit’s duplicity and stonewalling at the beginning of the investigation has only further ignited the case against him.

The son of a Baptist minister, Condit, a conservative “blue dog” Democrat, has tried to portray himself as a squeaky-clean family man under the banner of family values and moderate conservatism.

Now Condit finds himself in familiar waters with President Clinton (who Condit lambasted for not telling the truth earlier), only this time the intern has been missing for 11 weeks, and the naughty politician is one of the last to have contact with her.

The mainstream media’s coverage of the investigation (with the exception of CBS, who haven’t covered the event at all) has been extremely down-the-middle. There has not been any tabloid, over-the-top coverage that crosses ethical lines.

Critics claim, and will continue to claim that the media’s berating of Condit has cost him his political career.

I disagree. If anything has cost Condit his political career, it has been the egotistical nature of Condit’s actions. He threatened libel suits in mid-June after a story surfaced that Levy spent the night in his apartment, even though it turned out to be true.

Then Tuesday, Maria Ein, Condit’s spokeswoman, told Salon Levy had a history of frequent, casual sexual relationships. A one-night stand smear campaign against Levy is not going to do any good for the congressman, whose team of advisors have often put him in hotter water than he could have done himself.

This is not Jenna Bush throwing back a couple of cold ones at dinner. This is not washed-up actor Robert Blake’s wife being murdered. This case is a sound and legitimate news story that people are fascinated with, and rightfully so.

It’s your typical Sunday night made-for-TV movie in the making. I can see it now – “Capitol Lies: The Chandra Levy Story.”

Patrick Duffy (of Step by Step and Dallas fame) as the Harley-riding, womanizing California congressman with a sordid past, who meets: Tiffani-Amber Theissen as Chandra Levy, the 24-year-old intern caught in a whirlwind of romance in the nation’s capital, only to disappear in a cloud of mystery.

Rumors surface, denials ensue, and before long other tales of Condit’s past debauchery emerge and steal the headlines. Reba McEntire stars as Anne Marie Smith, a flight attendant who had a yearlong affair with Condit before being asked to lie about it in an affidavit.

Condit finally admits to the affair with Levy after pressure from the press, takes a self-administered polygraph test and faces up to the potential long term political fallout.

Meanwhile D.C. investigators, played by the cast of “Police Academy 3,” are working hard on the case. Knowing something has happened to this girl, they look at who had contact with her and was in a position to hurt her. Condit fit that description pretty well, yet it took over two months to look in his apartment.

Condit’s still not “an official suspect,” although it’s usually rare to have suspects for a case without a clear crime anyway.

The search continues and the D.C. police do their best to avoid another O.J./Jon Benet Ramsey high-profile debacle.

No one is quite sure yet how this one ends, but any way it does, we’re in for a prime-time ratings blockbuster.

Tim Paluch is a junior in journalism and mass communication from Orland Park, Ill. He is opinion editor of the Daily.