Rep. Gary Condit’s political career is probably toast. He has now reportedly told police investigators that he did have a romantic relationship with Chandra Levy.

Police, meanwhile, continue to reiterate ad nauseam that Condit is not a suspect in the disappearance of the former federal intern. Then again they can’t have a “suspect” unless or until they have a “crime.” As long as the Levy disappearance is a missing person investigation, the cops won’t have any suspects.

In his third interview with Washington police and FBI agents, Condit reportedly fessed up that his relationship with Levy was more than a friendship.

Perception versus reality, form over substance, fact and fiction – all chronic clich?s and catch phrases and all applicable to the growing controversy over the California congressman and his alleged/ presumed/ implied/ relationship with missing government intern Chandra Levy.

Condit is in fat trouble. Although his most grievous conduct may only end up being testosterone-induced stupidity, his mishandling and mismanagement of the issue will probably destroy his political career by a thousand small cuts rather than one fatal blow.

Political consultants had already said Condit’s congressional seat is “in play.” Condit’s situation has touched off a flurry of interest in his once-safe congressional seat.

Republican political consultant Wayne Johnson says, “The Republicans will make a big run at that seat if Condit isn’t there.”

California state Sen. Dick Monteith of Modesto, has said he will run for Congress if or when Condit resigns or drops his bid for re-election in 2002. And he won’t be the Lone Ranger. There are at least three or four others looking covetously at Condit’s seat.

Personifying hypocrisy, Democratic pit bull Bob Mulholland said, “It’s outrageous and insensitive,” this from one of the most partisan storm troopers in California. “People should remain focused on finding Chandra Levy, not on politics.” Sure Bob. If Gary were a Republican it would be Mulholland handing out torches and pitchforks.

Condit has been one of the most conservative Democrats in the California congressional delegation the past decade and has eschewed the party’s leadership on high-profile issues such as the Clinton budget and economic plan.

The Condit factor also impacts on the forthcoming reapportionment, and the Democrats’ vision quest to take back Congress next year. If Condit doesn’t run, his seat could be cannibalized in an effort to craft a new, more safely Democratic seat. But with the rural sections of the Central Valley becoming increasingly Republican, that task could well become a dog that won’t hunt.

In the wake of the Monica Lewinsky catastrophe, any politician who (subsequent to Bill Clinton) exploited the young, impressionable intern pool as a resource for sexual or emotional relief would be, and is, an idiot. Philandering politicians separated from family and loved ones always have and probably always will fuel the comedy pool with their indiscretions.

Public opinion remains conflicted, confused and up in the air over Condit’s status in California’s 18th congressional district. The managed confusion is a product of Condit hiding behind staff and refusing to speak to the issue. However, he would be well advised (if it is not already too late) to review a page from the Clinton After Action Report, Annex: Lessons Learned.

Clinton’s Monica problems were not a direct function of his infidelity, or his sleazy conduct in the people’s house. Ultimately, his greatest sin (and pay attention here) was his perjury. The lies were, and are perceived as more grievous than the conduct that sparked the lies. Clinton survived impeachment not on the facts but as a function of partisanship, malfeasance, cowardice and math. Some still suggest the use or threat of the FBI files the Clintons grabbed early in the administration may have aided the partisanship, malfeasance, cowardice and math.

Flash back to 1974: The Watergate scandal. Richard Nixon was on a roll. He ended the unpopular Vietnam War, established new levels of communication with the Soviet Union and he opened the Bamboo Curtain to China. In the foreign policy arena, Dick was kicking butt. The botched break-in at the Watergate, the whole CREEP (committee to re-elect the president) tool, Ellsberg et al. could have and would have been overlooked, swept aside and reduced to insignificance if managed differently. However, it was the cover up, the lies, the blatant abuse of power under the color of authority that resulted in the destruction of a presidency.

It may or may not be too late for Gary Condit to come clean, but the longer he stonewalls, the less likely he can overcome any inappropriate conduct with charm and a Jimmy Swaggart “I have sinned” do-over.

Democrat and Republican political operatives are all paying close attention.

The 18th California congressional race next year will be wide open, and Republicans are turgid at the thought of picking up Condit’s seat, even though in the past Condit has been a conservative vote for many core Republican issues.

In early May I mentioned the unmentionable on the radio. Now the London press has written the same question. Linda Zamsky, Chandra Levy’s aunt, said that on the day before her niece was last seen she left a voice-mail message saying that she had “some really big news or something important to tell.” Some have now raised the question (that I brought up in May) that Chandra may have been pregnant.

According to Zamsky, Condit had told Levy to keep quiet about their relationship and threatened to break it off if she talked.

“He was emphatic. It had to remain secret. If anybody found out about this relationship it was done, over, kaput,” Ms. Zamsky told the Washington Post.

The San Francisco Chronicle now reports, “A federal grand jury will be impaneled in Washington to investigate. …” The grand jury will allow Washington police and the FBI to subpoena records that may be relevant to the case, including Condit’s cellular phone bills.

Notwithstanding all the mud, duplicity and denial, I seriously doubt Condit is criminally connected with the disappearance of his former paramour. However, Condit’s probable innocence, his non-partisan voting record, his atypical penchant for voting on issues that affect his constituents rather than his party will all ultimately prove as insignificant as a small yellow hole in a snow bank. Politically, Gary Condit is probably history. Suggestions that California Gov. Gray Davis may try to rescue him with an appointment to the State’s Insurance Commissioner’s gig vacated by the Chuck Quackenbush scandal are a pipedream. Eventually, ultimately, Gary Condit will become another in a growing list of Bill Clinton-era victims.

Stick a fork in him – he’s done.

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