It's rather quaint that cable TV talk shows have taken up the question as to whether Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif., should resign because he impeded the investigation into the missing Chandra Levy and lied to authorities in denying that they had an affair.
Bill Clinton put the country through the rancor and trauma of an impeachment vote by impeding an investigation and lying about an affair -- and few D.C. solons pronounced that he should resign.
OK, impeachment was not a matter of life and death, but it did divide the country and did set -- actually, lower -- standards of behavior that now make it easier for Condit to stonewall law enforcement and remain in public office.
If the president of the United States could commit perjury and lie to the country, yet face little pressure to resign, why should a lowly member of Congress sacrifice his political career for lying and obstructing?
What is it Clintonistas used to say: that the president should be neither above the law nor below it? Doesn't that mean that if Condit hasn't been convicted of breaking a law that he should not have to forfeit his office? And if Clinton didn't have to put the country before his career, why should Condit put the interests of a missing person first?
Besides, Condit was just lying about sex.
Of course, it would be wrong to make too many parallels between Clinton and Condit, even if it is clear that Condit is following the Clinton playbook.
One difference is that Condit doesn't have the White House and Democratic National Committee to do his dirty work for him. Condit's team of apologists took some two months to start besmirching Chandra Levy's reputation or the name of pro-law enforcement types. To the rest of America, they're high-priced suits. Next to the Clinton spin machine, they're a ragtag platoon of hapless amateurs.
Add: Mrs. C hasn't appeared on television to blame a right-wing conspiracy.
As with Clinton, some Republicans have called for a resignation. The bad news for Condit is that congressional Dems may follow. They don't have much to lose if he resigns, so they can suggest that Condit has an obligation to tell the truth when talking with law enforcement types -- if they're willing to risk holding Condit to a higher standard than Clinton.
Condit should be glad that, after voting in favor of holding the House Judiciary Committee hearings on impeachment, he voted against impeachment itself.
To the average Joe, the impeachment vote should not make a difference when it comes to his behavior in the Levy case. A young woman is missing; her parents are frantic and anguished. Who cares if Condit supported impeachment?
The answer: New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd. She erroneously wrote that Condit voted for impeachment.
You see, an impeachment vote is supposed to make Condit's conduct worse. It would make Condit a -- boo hiss -- hypocrite. He can be a liar. Aren't all politicians? He can chase every skirt in Washington. Isn't that what men do? Even if he had something to do with Levy's disappearance, that has yet to be proven -- so he gets the benefit of the doubt.
Unless he voted for impeachment. If there's one thing Beltway punditry won't accept it's a liar and skirt-chaser who voted to impeach someone else for perjury. Hypocrisy -- unless it's the hypocrisy of a womanizer who opposes sexual harassment -- is a bigger offense than mistreating women, or, for that matter, foul play.
Lying to criminal justice authorities is a minor offense. Voting to do something about it is the real crime in punditocracy.