It’d be better if I’m wrong, but I don’t think we’re ever going to see Chandra Levy, the 24-year-old missing Washington intern, coming back for her credit cards and money. Instead, who’s back are the guys like Abbe Lowell, the House Democratic counsel who had the job of sticking up for Bill Clinton during the Monica mess and the impeachment inquiry.
This time around, Lowell is the mouthpiece for Rep. Gary Condit, Mr. June in the “Hunks of the House” pinup calendar that was created by admiring female colleagues on Capitol Hill as a going-away gift for Rep. Susan Molinari when she was leaving Congress to become an anchor for CBS News.
As I’m writing this, attorney Lowell is on TV criticizing the breaking news from The Washington Post about FBI agents questioning a Pentecostal minister who is now talking about a 1994 affair between his then-18-year-old daughter and Rep. Condit. Mr. Lowell’s spin: “This is beneath the dignity of The Washington Post.”
In a strange twist to the Levy story, it turns out that the Pentecostal preacher, Otis Thomas, 54, had taken on the part-time job some years back of ministering to the roses in the back yard of Chandra Levy’s parents. “Thomas, who has parlayed his weekend grounds-keeping at his Modesto, Calif., church into a weekday freelance gardening business, has done work at the Levy home for about four years,” reports The Washington Post. “He had a conversation with Chandra’s mother, Susan Levy, in April while he was tending roses in the back yard. The conversation continued by the pool, where Susan Levy brought him a cold drink. The two often talked about their children.”
Sitting by the pool, the two discovered they had something in common. Some 10 days or so before Chandra’s disappearance, they discovered they both had young daughters who’d been involved with Rep. Condit, involved in relationships, as Maureen Dowd put it in The New York Times, of “unappetizing inequity.” It was, said Dowd, the old D.C. story line of a relationship between “older married officials and young, needy women,” the classic tale about whether “a powerful man can put himself above the law.”
Rev. Thomas says he encouraged his daughter to talk to the FBI but that she’s afraid and has now gone into hiding. His daughter was warned, he says, by Rep. Condit to never go public about their relationship. Ms. Dowd called crime writer Ann Rule, the author of “Empty Promises” and a former Seattle police officer and F.B.I. consultant, who often writes about nice young women who vanish.
“I think this is a very romantic girl, a Monica, an Anne Marie Fahey,” Ms. Rule tells Dowd, referring to Chandra Levy, “one of many unnamed young women who move in the circle of powerful men and don’t see how expendable they are.” Fahey, the secretary of Gov. Tom Carper of Delaware, disappeared in June 1996. A friend of the governor, a wealthy and prominent Wilmington attorney, got the death sentence for shooting Ms. Fahey after she attempted to break off an affair with him. The rich and married lawyer got his brothers to help him dump Anne Marie’s body in the Atlantic Ocean.
Top Clinton aide Dick Morris explained how it worked in the Clinton White House, how the Clintons surrounded themselves with detectives and negative-research specialists, and how a kind of secret police force was launched to bury the dirt: “Kathleen Willey reports her cat was stolen and her tires were slashed. Shortly thereafter, while jogging in the park, a man ran up alongside her, asked about her cat – calling it by name. He said that if she wasn’t careful, her children would be next. Former Miss America Elizabeth Ward Gracen reports her hotel room was ransacked – and $2,000 left untouched – in what she suspects was an effort to find incriminating tapes. Linda Tripp’s confidential personnel file winds up in The New Yorker magazine in an attempt to discredit her. Dolly Kyle Browning relates the details of a long attempt to intimidate her and shut her up.”
With Monica, FBI agents listened in to her conversation at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Arlington, Va., with Linda Tripp as she explained that her mother’s biggest fear was that Bill Clinton was going to send somebody out to kill her. “For fear of my life,” said Monica, “I would not cross these … these people.” Later, Monica’s mother, Marcia Lewis, told a grand jury that she brought up Mary Jo Kopechne, the young aide who died in a car wreck in which Sen. Ted Kennedy drove off the Chappaquiddick, Mass., bridge, to her daughter as an example of what can happen to young women in politics who know too much.
And so, here we go again. And watching it, I have no idea what it’s like to be Gary Condit. I don’t understand the prize. What, slap a million backs and kiss a million butts in order to end up 3,000 miles from home with some half-baked intern at midnight? For what, a little necktie bondage? Sorry, but I’d rather jump in the car with my wife and our two Goldens, Nug and Chloe, and drive down to DiCarlos for some pizza.