As nearly as I can figure it, the buzz is that Gary Condit will come off pretty well in his Thursday evening interview. Not because he should or shouldn't necessarily. But because it's a short interview (30 minutes), a ready-made vehicle for contrite pols, and because he'll be endlessly coached by pros who know how this game is played.
My feeling is that this is true (or at least it was). But the more I've thought about it the more I've concluded that it's not true at all, that he'll actually come off pretty badly.
Let's set aside all suspicions or hunches about whether or not Condit did or didn't have anything to do with Levy's disappearance. There have been maybe a dozen moments over the last three months where Condit either had to appear in public, make some comment, or have some representative make a comment on his behalf. As nearly as I can figure, in every single one of these cases, Condit and his reps have either struck exactly the wrong chord (confrontational when conciliatory was the way to go) or said something foolish and damaging.
A few examples?
Shady lie detector test that ended up being a PR fiasco.
There are many other examples which cannot be tagged in one line. But the basic point is clear enough: Gary Condit -- who from the start has taken the decisive role in deciding his own PR strategy -- has never had a good feel for the tone to strike in dealing with the public or the press.
Abbe Lowell's botched press conference in which he let himself get baited into offering up his client for a lie detector test.
Lowell's decision to criticize Levys after their Larry King Live interview.
Condit's personal, slashing, angry response to the Modesto and Fresno Bee's editorials calling on him to resign.
Threats to sue various news organizations for stories later admitted to be true.
Endless slew of self-defeating non-denial denials.
Initial gambit: convince the media that Dupont Circle is hotbed of abductions.
Condit flack Marina Ein's decision to call Condit's third interview with police a "home run."
Condit flack Marina Ein's decision to tell Salon.com that Chandra had "a history of one-night stands."
Regrettable watch-box disposal incident.
That's point one.
Point two is the assumption -- logical and voiced by nearly everyone -- that Condit is being actively and expertly prepped for this interview. I'm honestly not sure that's true. Who is prepping Condit? Who's working for him? Mike Lynch, his chief of staff. Abbe Lowell, his attorney. Marina Ein, his flack. And apparently now Richie Ross, a California political consultant.
These are the same people (with the apparent exception of Ross) who've been advising Condit for several months. And what winners have they come up with so far?
Think about it.