Jewish World Review August 15, 2001/ 26 Menachem-Av 5761

Wesley Pruden

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But can Clinton be successfully cloned? -- GARY CONDIT is what our soggy therapy culture calls "a work in progress."

On the other hand, the work may be finished.

The California congressman is interesting politically not because he's been working without either zipper or conscience -- the town is full of between-the-sheets artists working without a net -- but because he's the test of whether Bill Clinton can be successfully cloned.

The Democrats in Congress, who only want the congressman to go away, far away, are terrified that he can't. Mr. Condit is betting that he can be. The similarities between the two pols have been remarked on endlessly since Chandra Levy disappeared and Gary Condit first became "not a suspect."

There are differences, of course. Bill Clinton has never personally been a suspect, even an honorary suspect, in a murder case, and Gary Condit has never been convicted of lying to the federal courts, caught robbing a bank, or credibly accused of raping a constituent.

But the congressman is betting that he can brazen it out, just like the ex-president brazened out the serial accusations of women who said he treated them like something dirty from a Kleenex box. His strategy, like his stamina, is clintonian, but what he doesn't have going for him is clintonian bonhomie and female indulgence (and media indulgence of female indulgence). But he does have the Clinton arrogance, in abundance.

When the major newspapers in his district, the Modesto Bee and the Fresno Bee, ran front-page editorials on Sunday demanding that he resign, "not because of his affairs but because he has abused his office, deceived his constituents and given Congress another black eye," Mr. Condit answered with a retort that could have been written by the man who no longer believes in Hope but who has been reborn as the happy hip-hopster from Harlem.

"It is terribly unfair and disappointing that the Bee[s] would have come to any decision about me without first allowing the investigation to continue and hearing what I have to say," Mr. Condit said in his best victim's voice.

This stunning exercise in chutzpah, from a man who has dodged questions not only from the cops but from the reporters and everybody else waiting for most of the summer to hear what he had to say, recalls Bill Clinton's famous reply when first confronted with the evidence, the smoking condom as it were, that he had been using an intern to treat the Oval Office as if it were a crib at Maxine's in Hot Springs: "We have to wait until we get all the information." He was counting on everyone to overlook the fact that he didn't have to look very far because the sole source of the information was himself.

Or consider Mr. Clinton's famous denial that he had ever "had sex" with "that woman, Miss Lewinsky," and Gary Condit's similar denial that Miss Levy had ever been more than a friend.

A lot of people did overlook the facts about Bill and Monica, and his lying to the courts and to everyone else, and the rest is history. And now Gary Condit may be history. It's a bit of serendipity for California Democrats that Chandra disappeared just as the Democratic governor, Gray Davis, and California officials began redrawing the congressional districts in the wake of the 2000 federal census.

The editorials in the two biggest newspapers in his district will give the Democrats in Sacramento all the cover they'll need to carve up his district to exclude his die-hard precincts. Mr. Condit will be left with a few crusts of stale bread and a handful of stones. Not much to dine out on.

The newspapers were unusually harsh on the congressman, whom they had more or less created two decades ago (much in the way that The Washington Post created Marion Barry). This makes their demand for his resignation all the more eloquent. Few Democrats in California expect a resignation, but the repudiation will likely make re-election remote.

"No one expects perfection from Condit or any other elected leader," stung the Bees. "Legislators are human, as prone to flaws and failures as the people they represent. But we do expect politicians to be accountable for what they do or don't do . We have not seen that with Condit. Rather, we have seen more than three months of delay, denial and duplicity -- conduct that has brought disrepute on Condit himself and the district he represents."

In the drearily familiar scenario of the pol caught dishonoring and degrading his family, Gary Condit now hides behind his wife and children. He certainly would have told all by now, he says, but he wanted to spend time with them "before I sat down for any public interview."

Of course he did. Wasn't that how Bill Clinton did it?

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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