Andrew Kohut, director of Pew Research Center for People and the Press, maintains that only 16 percent of Americans are "very interested" in the Chandra Levy-Gary Condit story.
I'm not sure how accurate that figure is, judging by the news coverage. We like to pretend we have better things to do than follow this case, but the truth is, we rather enjoy peeking through the keyhole, as long as nobody catches us.
Just about every conceivable opinion has already been given on this matter -- comments on everything from Mr. Condit's early deception to Ms. Levy's emotional stability -- so I'm not going to attempt to add my take, since it will likely reflect those you've seen ad nauseum in the past few months.
It would also be good to observe another important rule that some politicians forget: It's unwise to criticize Winnie the Pooh for being a glutton if you've got your own fingers in the honey pot.
Number One: In some 40 years of adult life, I have come to realize that, for the most part, there is no smoke without fire. While I realize that malicious gossip is sometimes spread, most rumors are grounded in some sort of fact.
If a friend tells me that Tim is cheating on his wife, it usually turns out to be true. It may take six more months for the lovers to expose themselves, but one night, I see Tim whispering into a young blonde's ear in a local tavern. If I hear that John and Louise are getting a divorce, no matter how much I want to disbelieve it, the next thing you know, they're packing their possessions and fighting over who gets to keep the dog. I don't know how folks know these things, but they know ... and they spread them.
So, when the press hears that a public figure is pregnant, divorcing or alley-catting around, there's usually some reason for it. Down the road, we usually find out the truth, and the truth is often close to the original rumor.
Number 2: I can't speak for men here, but with women, there is no such thing as a "secret affair." Just about every woman has at least one confidante with whom she will share the facts, if not the details, of her love life. It may start innocently ("You'll never believe who asked me out!"), but sooner or later, the deeper secrets are revealed ("He's married and I may be pregnant.").
One must also not forget, that the confidante also has her own confidante ("You can't tell this to another soul, but Monica told me she's ..."), and we all know what happens to a secret when more than one person knows it.
I have also learned that very often, men with power are not the icons of morality that they pretend to be. The higher up the totem pole they get, the more likely it is that they will have a mistress (or at least a bevy of easily impressed women) at their disposal.
I suspect that all the wars fought, all the governments overthrown, and all the crusades and pillages throughout history have been because some guy thought that the more clout he had, the more chicks would flock to him.
After all, isn't that what it's all about? Every man wants to have someone to whom he can whisper, "Guess whose butt I put in a sling today?" It may be a senator who finally gets an unpopular bill passed, or Tony Soprano whacking a rat, but they all want to brag about it.
It would also be good to observe another important rule that some politicians forget: It's unwise to criticize Winnie the Pooh for being a glutton if you've got your own fingers in the honey pot. Politicians like Newt Gingrich and the Rev. Jesse Jackson should take note of this fact, as should Gary Condit, who unwisely criticized President Bill Clinton for his lack of morals.
In conclusion, I would like to comment about the news media in general. Whether you like it or not, it is a reporter's job to track down the truth.
Contrary to what Condit's lawyer says, very rarely is a "police source" (when quoted in an article) just a cop who happened to be strolling by the interrogation room and "heard some misinformation." Police sources are usually reliable, tried and true resources, often pretty high up in the hierarchy, and newspapers, for the most part, are very conscientious about making sure the information is reliable. We have seen this in the Condit case, in which the leaks have proven to be true.
Condit's lawyer made a huge mistake when he chastised the media for pursuing the story and made them look like unscrupulous gossipmongers. He has now alienated the reporters completely, especially since it has been proven that Condit was lying about his involvement with Levy.
Years after the fact, we know that John F. Kennedy's indiscretions never came to light because the people around him respected him so deeply, including members of the press. Bill Clinton was well liked too, and that's probably why the media, while reporting the story, made him sound like a good ol' boy who was, shucks, just a big, horny kid.
But Gary Condit and his lawyer ticked the press off, and the reporters are now blood-frenzied pit bulls, out for the kill.
Having the news media as your friend can be a double-edged sword at best.
But having the media as an enemy is a wake-up call to kiss your political future goodbye.
This article is copyright 2001 by Minx McCloud and appears here with permission.
May we also suggest:
Chicken Soup for the Soulless