Of late, for a number of reasons, I’ve tried to make these virtual pages a Condit/Chandra free zone. But let me add one note regarding today’s developments.
A flight attendant, who alleges an affair with Condit, says he asked her to swear out a false affidavit denying an affair, etc. To rebut the charges, Condit released the following statement:
I have repeatedly urged anyone who has any information that could help police find Chandra Levy to come forward, tell all they know, and be as forthcoming as possible. I have not asked anyone to refrain from discussing this matter with authorities, nor have I suggested anyone mislead the authorities.
Like many others in this case, this really isn’t the denial it purports to be. A straightforward look at the syntax tells you that the antecedent of “this matter” is Chandra Levy’s disappearance; Condit is thus denying telling anyone to withhold information they may know about the whereabouts of Chandra Levy, not anything having to do with some alleged affair he may have had with the other woman. With regards the flight attendant’s allegation, this statement is, as the lawyers would say, non-responsive.
Having said this, though, let’s make very sure this alleged other relationship does have some conceiveable tie-in with the Chandra Levy case. The rationale for looking into Condit’s relationship with Levy is its proximity to her disappearance. We certainly don’t know they are connected. But that proximity, I’ve always thought, at least requires Condit to be forthcoming about anything which could shed light on her disappearance.
But the Chandra relationship doesn’t give reporters a roving commission to open the books on all the pitiful back pages of Condit’s life.
One might say that the possibility of a crime — tied to the affidavit — makes this new relationship a public matter — just as Chandra’s disappearance makes the relationship with her a public matter.
But this doesn’t wash to me.
What makes the Chandra relationship different is that something very serious and tragic seems to have happened to her. It may or may not be a crime. But something happened to her. But when we talk about a crime, to my lights at least, we mean a real crime, not the sort of bogus crime that only lawyers recognize as a crime — like lying about, or trying to get others to lie about who you’ve had sex with.
In the abstract, I agree that perjury and obstruction are serious offenses. But in these cases, they are also weapons with which you can put someone in a very tight position, where you bend them over the barrel of public opinion and then pull in the law for a squeeze play. The crime isn’t the justification for rummaging through someone’s private life. It’s something wrenched out of them once you’ve already got into their personal affairs and you’re using the info to squeeze them.
Come to think of it, something like this happened with another guy I know a few years ago.
In any case, the point is that the circumstances of Levy’s disappearance really did change the rules in the case of media questioning of that relationship — legitimately so. But it’s not a reason to tie Condit to a pole and play Lord of the Flies with this man’s pitiful private affairs.
If Condit really did call this other woman at the beginning of May and tell her he was “going to have to disappear for a while” that’s a pretty big deal. And it would bear directly on some sort of connection to Levy’s disappearance. I’m just saying this is a slippery slope.
P.S. Mickey Kaus responds to the above and says I was tying myself “in gratuitous knots.” Perhaps so. It’s part of the weblog philosophy that you don’t pull down posts once they’re up. But suffice it to say that what’s always struck me about this case, and the media’s curious early reaction to it, is this: In the Clinton case, the media used largely bogus ‘crimes’ as an excuse to get at sex. In the Condit case, the media used the excuse of sex to ignore what was potentially a crime of the highest order. The contrast, I have always thought, speaks volumes. Anyway, that’s my story and I’m stickin’ with it. (Update July 4th, 2001, 1:38 AM)