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Jewish World Review July 20, 2001/ 29 Tamuz, 5761

Larry Elder

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Consumer Reports

Gary Condit -- moderate, conservative or right-wing? -- WHAT is Gary Condit? Ideologically speaking, that is.

Representative Condit, D-Calif., reportedly confessed to a romantic affair with missing Federal Bureau of Prisons intern Chandra Levy. But the media seem confused about how to label Condit. The Washington Times calls him a "conservative." The Times of London referred to him as a "right-winger." The Washington Post called him a "Blue Dog Democrat."

The Almanac of American Politics 2000 describes Condit this way: "Condit has the most conservative voting record of any California Democrat ... " Well, yes. But California is a state dominated by Democrats.

California Governor Gray Davis supports energy price controls, a move normally associated with one of those five-year plans of the former Soviet Union. And California voters elected Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, both of whom are pro-choice, anti-gun, tax-spend-and-regulate types. Democrats dominate the state legislature, as well as the U.S. congressional delegation. Some call the California Republican Party an endangered species, with the highest-ranking Republican occupying the position of secretary of state. Yes, Condit possesses "the most conservative voting record of any California Democrat." But this is like saying, "Of The Three Stooges, Moe was the sharpest."

Here's the problem. We call President George W. Bush "conservative." This "conservative" supports the expansion of the federal Department of Education, wishes to use federal dollars for "faith-based" initiatives, supports an investigation into allegations of "steel dumping," and offered a budget with increases over and above inflation. This "conservative" president once said that no American should pay more than one-third (as opposed to zero) of his income to the federal government. This "conservative" president seeks to expand failed or taxpayer rip-off programs like Head Start, DARE and the taxpayer-paid "volunteer" program set up by the Clinton administration.

In light of this, let's examine Condit's "conservative" record. Yes, he supported the balanced budget amendment and the line-item veto, opposes publicly funded abortions, and supports relaxing some environmental restrictions.

But he opposed school vouchers, NAFTA and the privatization of Social Security. Condit supported banning Mexican-registered cars unless they meet California's clean air standards. He pushed for tougher air standards in the San Francisco Bay Area. And while he was one of 31 House Democrats to vote for the Clinton impeachment inquiry, he later voted against impeachment. In 1999, Democratic House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt invited Condit to serve on the party's leadership council -- the "centrist" Democratic organization once led by Bill Clinton. In fact, the liberal Americans for Democratic Action gives Condit a lifetime 52 percent rating, while he receives a lower 48 percent score from the American Conservative Union. "Right-wing Democrat"?

What's more, the mostly liberal mainstream media seem reluctant to remind us that Condit is a Democrat. The Media Research Center analyzed ABC, NBC and CBS morning and evening news programs from May 14 through July 11. Of the 179 stories mentioning Gary Condit, only 14 identified him as a Democrat. The MRC reported that, "Normally, a 'Republican' or 'Democrat' label is presented nearly every time a member of Congress is cited, as in 'Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif.' But since May, the three broadcast networks have practically erased the 'D' from Condit's political identity, detaching the scandal-plagued politician from the rest of his party." And of the 14 times that Condit actually was identified as a Democrat, nearly half were preceded with "conservative" or "right-wing" adjectives.

ABC's "Good Morning America," according to the MRC, rather belatedly mentioned Condit's party. After airing 26 stories on the Levy case, GMA first hinted that Condit was a Democrat when, on June 25, analyst George Stephanopoulos said, "A political maverick who rides a Harley, Condit founded the Blue Dog coalition of conservative Democrats."

The Media Research Center reported:

"Six additional stories conveyed Condit's affiliation without using a straightforward label. On the July 8 CBS 'Evening News' Condit was a Democrat but remarked that 'the Republican Party also sees weakness and may focus on gaining his congressional seat.' But even adding those six stories to those that plainly labeled Condit leaves 159 network stories, or 89 percent of the total coverage, which offered viewers no clue he was a Democrat ... Before he became controversial, Condit's party label was normally presented on those few occasions he appeared on a network news program. But now that the Levy case has made him a household name, you have to listen for a long time to hear a network reporter acknowledge Gary Condit's membership in the Democratic Party."

On July 9, Stephanopoulos predicted on "Good Morning America" that "I don't think the rest of the Democratic Party is going to get tarred by Gary Condit." No kidding. The more trouble Democrat Gary Condit gets in, the more out-of-touch, conservative and "Republican-like" his voting record becomes. Odd.

JWR contributor Larry Elder is the author of the newly released, The Ten Things You Can't Say in America. (Proceeds from sales help fund JWR) Let him know what you think of his column by clicking here.

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© 2001, Creators Syndicate