Going, Going ? Condit Gets More Bad News

July 7, 2008 - 7:28 PM

1st add includes comments by Rep. Bob Barr.

(CNSNews.com) - Amid the poor reviews over his performance in a nationally televised interview Thursday night, California Congressman Gary Condit learned Friday that the Democratic leader in the U.S. House might take action to punish Condit.

Condit was quizzed Thursday by ABC's Connie Chung about his affair with Washington intern Chandra Levy and her subsequent disappearance. An NBC/Zogby poll conducted immediately after the interview found that 84 percent of those surveyed said they were "very unsatisfied" with Condit's remarks on why he didn't come forward to help police investigators sooner.

The poll also showed that 81 percent of those questioned would not vote to re-elect Condit if he were their congressman.

In an interview with the St. Louis Post Dispatch, House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) called Condit's televised statements "disturbing and wrong," saying he will talk with House Democrats about possible action, which might include Condit giving up his seat on the House Intelligence Committee.

"I do not believe he was candid and forward," Gephardt said in an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "He stayed in this zone of being evasive.

"As to his future, that rests with him and [his] political constituents," Gephardt said, but added, "I need to talk to my colleagues ... We're going to have to deal with the issues."

Until Friday, Gephardt had defended Condit.

"I've served with Gary Condit for 12 years, and he's never lied to me," Gephardt said. "In the early stages, it was a matter of finding this young woman ... I assumed, first of all, that he was cooperating with police."

Gephardt said he had hoped Condit would be "straightforward, candid and apologize," during the interview. "What he (Condit) said last night was disturbing and wrong," Gephardt said. "I think it fell way short. It all adds to the general perception that politics are no good and politicians are a bunch of bums."

Meanwhile, Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) Friday welcomed Gephardt's criticism of Condit.

"After more than three months of dodging, denial and doubt, I am grateful the House Minority Leader has finally acknowledged Congressman Condit's actions in the Chandra Levy matter are both 'disturbing and wrong,'" Barr said.

"I am surprised, however, this comes in reaction to a news media interview given by Mr. Condit, and not to the news many weeks ago that Mr. Condit was not only not forthcoming with law enforcement authorities, but appears to have obstructed justice," he said.

"Nonetheless," Barr said, "I hope Mr. Gephardt's comments today will serve to move the House of Representatives towards taking a very serious and thorough look at whether Congressman Condit has violated the ethical and legal standards of the House of Representatives, and whether his continued service as a member of the Intelligence Committee puts our nation's national security at risk."

Political analysts from all over the country weighed in Friday with their reactions about Condit's performance and his chances for political survival.

"It's clearly an uphill battle, but it is premature to write him off," said Dave Kopel, research director at the Independence Institute. "There are a lot of people in public office who have been in disastrous shape in the opinion polls. Most of them lost, but some of them managed to pull off a comeback."

The NBC/Zogby poll found that 93 percent felt Condit was more concerned about his political career than about the welfare of Levy.

Condit has yet to decide if he will seek re-election in 2002 and his Washington office was not prepared Friday to comment on the numbers reported in the NBC/Zogby poll.

During the television interview with Chung, Condit, who represents California's 18th district, did acknowledge having had a "close" relationship with Levy, but he refused to say if it was sexual and denied he had anything to do with her disappearance.
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"Even if, in the extremely unlikely event that he had nothing to do with her disappearance, his dishonesty, self-centeredness, arrogance and narcissism, which were on full display in the Connie Chung interview, show that he is unfit to serve in Congress," Kopel said.

Constituents in Condit's district tended to voice similar views, and an attorney for Levy's parents told NBC's Today show that the parents were angry after watching the interview. Condit was being "dishonest" and "slippery," Billy Martin alleged, and has "something to hide."