The Fayette Citizen-Opinion Page

Friday, July 20, 2001
The Condit-Levy scandal: Character does matter, but will the voters care?


The Democratic congressman from California, Gary Condit, is in a heap of trouble. After lying about his relationship with intern and graduate student Chandra Levy, the lawmaker has apparently finally admitted to a 10-month-long affair. All this only after the attractive Levy has been missing for nearly three months. And if all this were not enough, a flight attendant has alleged that she has had a long-standing affair with Condit and a minister has charged that Condit acted improperly toward his daughter.

Senator Trent Lott and Congressman Bob Barr, both Republicans, have called for Condit to resign, and even some Democrats seem loathe to line up solidly behind the congressman. For his part, Condit has met several times with the police, has opened his apartment to scrutiny, has submitted a DNA sample, and has taken a carefully worded, private, polygraph examination. The police continue to say, officially, that Condit is not a suspect in Levy's disappearance.

Ironically, Condit's web page is still advertising for interns. The paragraph encouraging young people to contact the congressman's office reads, "Whether interning in Modesto, Merced, or Washington D.C., working in one of Rep. Condit's offices can be an extremely rewarding experience. Typical duties of interns can range from assisting with phone's to researching legislative projects." There is even a link on Condit's web page to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

It is certainly too early to assume that Condit had anything to do with Levy's mysterious disappearance but it is not too early to question Condit's ability and fitness to serve. If the Clinton/Lewinski scandal proved anything, it demonstrated that people in power need to be in control of their own sexual appetites. While many Clinton supporters screamed that the Clinton debacle was only about sex, the truth is that it was about moral fitness to lead.

An individual who will break sacred covenant vows, such as marriage vows, on a consistent basis, will, it can be assumed, break other vows and betray other sacred trusts as well. For the most part, people operate in patterns, in established habits. A spouse beater will continue to abuse his wife unless there is some sort of significant intervention. A person who tells small lies will eventually concoct large lies. A police officer who consistently betrays his marriage oath will likely eventually break the oath he took when he was sworn in as a cop.

Can Gary Condit govern effectively now that the whole world knows that he has betrayed the trust of his wife and that he has engaged in a pattern of deception? Can Condit be trusted now that it is clear that he could not be trusted to behave responsibly toward a young woman who signed on to help his office achieve important goals? Can Condit be trusted in other matters after having lied or misled Chandra Levy's grieving parents?

There are those who would howl and protest that Condit's sex life doesn't matter. But those people are dead wrong. It does matter when it reveals a pattern of unfaithfulness, unreliability, deception, abuse of power, and betrayal. And this all assumes that Congressman Condit had nothing to do with Levy's disappearance. The lesson of Bill Clinton is that, in the end, character did matter. Condit failed to learn that lesson and is now paying the price for his moral lapses in the media and in his family.

One journalist declared that, if every senator and congressman who had mistresses had to resign, there wouldn't be enough legislators left to govern. Perhaps that would be a good thing if the people who replaced them were men and women who understood that character matters, that promises are not meant to be broken, that vows made to God are sacred, and that people who abuse their position of trust will not be tolerated.

The voters failed to hold former President Clinton accountable for his moral misjudgments while in office. Time will tell if the voters in California's 18th Congressional District will make the same mistake.

[David Epps is rector of Christ the King Charismatic Episcopal Church in Peachtree City. He may be contacted at or at]

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