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Jewish World Review July 11, 2001/ 20 Tamuz 5761

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Consumer Reports

To tell the truth --
SHOCK waves rippled through the nation's capital as news of California Rep. Gary Condit's adultery confession filtered through the media grapevine. Imagine that.

It's kind of sweet, really, that the city of deceit can still be shocked when a politician lies. Charming in a way that the adultery axis of the universe is still fumbling through the fundamentals of Adultery 101.

Condit finally confessed to the FBI in his third interview with investigators hot on the now-frigid trail of the missing intern, Chandra Levy. Yes, Condit told them, he and Levy were having a romantic relationship. They were not, contrary to eight weeks of denials, just "good friends."

Who didn't know?

Of course Condit and Levy were intimate. How did we know? The same way we knew (sorry but it's unavoidable) that Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky were having an affair. Or playing doctor. Or whatever you call that silliness in the little office. We know because we understand the meaning of words.

When Clinton said: "I did not have sexual relations with THAT WOMAN," we knew. "That woman" is always a female with whom one has had sexual relations. "Ms. Lewinsky," on the other hand, is the charming young intern with whom one would never consider having sexual relations because she's too young, vulnerable and, frankly, messy.

Note: Clinton realized his error immediately and quickly added, "Ms. Lewinsky."

Too late. We knew.

We also knew when Condit said he and Levy were just "good friends" that they were in fact very good friends. Why? Because you don't break off a friendship, as Condit said he did with Levy. You may have a blowup with a good friend and never speak again, but you don't sit down over coffee and say: "We can't be friends anymore."

In the early days following Levy's disappearance, Condit said he had told Levy that they no longer could be friends because she was moving back to California. Levy had just completed her internship with the Federal Bureau of Prisons and was packed to return to California for her graduation from her master's program when she vanished.

You do, however, break off a romance, after which one member of the party is usually pretty upset, as Condit initially reported Levy was. Now he says that they had not broken up when she disappeared. So which is it? Given Condit's record of evasiveness - and lying by omission - it's hard to believe him now, which is the problem with lying after all. No one ever trusts your word again.

Condit told the FBI that he was not forthcoming in the beginning because he wanted to protect his family, and everyone understands that. Were a young woman not missing, Condit's constituents likely would have forgiven him his failed judgment. But life has a higher value than the privilege of privacy, and Levy's disappearance imposed an onus of honesty on Condit that he chose to ignore.

The important work in a missing-person case takes place in the first few days, even the first few hours. This many weeks later, Condit's confession is of little use other than to satisfy prurient curiosity. Investigators needed access to Condit's intimate knowledge of Levy about 70 days ago.

Whether Condit had anything to do with Levy's disappearance - and investigators assert that he is not a suspect - he certainly had nothing to do with helping to find her. When Levy needed the man she'd apparently fallen in love with, he wasn't there for her. Note to young female interns: Avoid married men, especially married politicians. Correction: Avoid all politicians.

While we're dispensing advice, a couple of tips for you guys with zipper problems: The first rule of Adultery for Dummies -- under "A" in the congressional handbook -- is "equal risk." If you're married with children, she'd better be married with children. Otherwise, babes, what's she got to lose by saving a semen-stained dress or disappearing in the middle of your public life?

Oh, and one more thing: Always tell the truth as soon as possible. Otherwise, think: What's the most enduring quote from the Clinton years? Some legacy that.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.

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