Yesterday the Wasington Post ran a story alleging that Gary Condit had told Washington DC police that Chandra Levy (the intern who's been missing for more than a month now) had in fact spent the night at his apartment. That appeared to be the other shoe dropping, putting to rest any notion that Condit was just pals with Levy.
Condit then struck back with a blistering attack on the article, a denial that he had ever said such a thing, and a veiled threat to sue the Post for libel.
But let's look a little more closely at this. Condit has never appeared before reporters to answer questions about Levy's disappearance. Never. He has never denied a relationship with Levy -- only had press flacks issue denials on his behalf. And even the new scorching press release his people put out yesterday contained no quotes from Condit.
Now as a pretty consistent defender of Bill Clinton I'm hesitant to jump too fulsomely onto the lynch Condit bandwagon over these intern allegations. But that is the problem: there really isn't much of a lynch Condit bandwagon. And I'm a little unclear why not. Published reports point pretty clearly to the conclusion that Condit was having a secret, extra-marital affair with Levy. And the investigation into Levy's disappearance (and I really say this with all sincere due respect to her family and friends) looks very much like a murder investigation.
I don't like the idea of someone being hounded by anonymously sourced allegations in the press. But, as a public official, how exactly is it that Condit can get away with not even issuing a real denial. That is to say, not a denial from his press secretary (who presumably has no actual knowledge of the facts) but a quote from him. Or, better yet, an actual appearance to answer at least a few questions.
My own take on this, and one that seems to be shared by reporters following the story, is that Condit was having an affair with Levy. Then, very unluckily for him, she disappeared. One has to assume through some sort of foulplay. In the first few days, before it became clear what exactly had happened with Levy, Condit denied any affair, which is pretty much what you'd expect. But at that point Condit had boxed himself in and couldn't wriggle his way out even after Levy's disappearance began to look much more ominous and the stakes became much higher.
Plenty of people in the local media and on Capitol Hill whom I've spoken to don't have much problem believing that Condit was having an affair with Levy. But none whom I've spoken to can even comprehend that he would be involved in her disappearance.
But today's story in the New York Post gives one of the first bits of information that honestly makes me wonder. According to the Post article, on the two days before her disappearance (April 29th and 30th), Levy left a flurry of messages on one of Condit's answering machines -- what the Post calls "a special answering service that bypassed his congressional office."
That could certainly be innocent. But it doesn't look very good, does it?
As someone who knows a newly-minted defense attorney rather well, there certainly could be an innocent explanation for all this. But aren't we well beyond the point where a vague non-denial denial from the press secretary is going to cut it?
I mean, at least my guy was man enough to come out and lie!