One important public relations insight to emerge from Condit's ABC interview is that if you are ever in the position of having the public think you're a murderer -- cold, brusque self-righteousness may not be the best tone to take. Next time, try groveling self-debasement.
The strongest argument for Condit's innocence now is that he is such an idiot, it would be miraculous if he could pull off a jaywalking offense without being arrested in five seconds.
Prior to the Chung interview, an FBI profiler gave me his checklist of Things to Look For. Condit hit almost every one of them. The Chung interview could be used as a training tape in profiler class. (As Condit's public relations agent might say: It was a "home run!") The only liar's tropes Condit avoided were: lack of eye contact and incessant arm crossing. But you could see he managed to quell these mannerisms only with the exertion of Dr. Strangelove resisting the Nazi salute.
Among the behavioral tics that got check marks, Condit kept giving long, gaseous speeches on irrelevant points, while providing only short, curt answers to germane questions.
Condit rambled at length, for example, about his precise position on the Clinton impeachment. He babbled about what exactly he had said, the timing of the Starr document release, what Newt Gingrich was up to back then ("let me finish -- let me finish!"), why Condit took the position he did, which is not how it was being described in the press at all, and he was really working himself into a heated stem-winder until Chung finally managed to cut him off, saying, "We aren't talking about that right now."
But when Chung asked, "Did you kill Chandra Levy?" Condit's complete answer was: "I did not." That's it. "I did not." Not: This has been the greatest nightmare of my life, Connie, unimaginably bad, but please believe that whatever mistakes I've made I am not capable of killing another human being, etc., etc. Or something to that effect.
After the interview, the FBI profiler noted that Condit had studiously avoided describing any contact he had with Chandra -- even nonsexual contact. Condit never said anything about having picked Chandra up, driven her to work, invited her over or called her on the telephone.
There was only one overt action Condit mentioned ever taking toward Chandra during their entire relationship (which may or may not have existed): a phone call he placed to her after she disappeared. The cover-up phone call! Condit really wanted to get that out there -- a call he happened to make to Chandra "later in the week," after "the 30th or the 31st or sometime in that week."
Condit's casual mention of April "31st" was also highly confidence inspiring. As everyone following this story knows, April 30 is the day Chandra was last seen and May 1 -- the next day -- is when she disappeared. But maybe Condit hasn't been following news on the missing Washington intern.
All this is a long-winded way of saying what the entire country recognized instantly after watching Condit's interview: The man is Clintonesque.
"Clintonesque" is an adjective meaning "oily dissembler, shunned by decent society." It first entered the American lexicon circa Jan. 21, 1998. Earlier uses are of uncertain meaning, such as the first recorded citation in the Lexis Nexis database describing Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., as having run "as a Clintonesque Democrat" (New York Times, Dec. 26, 1992).
Erstwhile Clinton-lovers now in a state of righteous indignation about Condit better hope he murdered Chandra. Otherwise, they have a lot of 'splaining to do. Admittedly, it's not a rash assumption. But on the basis of what is known about Condit, as opposed to assumed, everything liberals said about Clinton is now officially true: This is just about sex.
It's not enough to bleat that there is a "missing girl" this time. That is tautological: Condit has relevant information to Chandra's disappearance only if he was involved in Chandra's disappearance. There were plenty of other people close to Chandra who didn't immediately gush to investigators about Chandra's habits and lifestyle -- including some with knowledge of her adulterous affair. No one is jumping down their throats.
And no one can seriously believe that if Monica had gone missing, Bill Clinton would have rushed to the public with information about his sleazy affair. Liberals are beginning to sound like the dissembling congressman: They're giving us a lot of long speeches about Condit, but short, curt replies on the difference between Condit and Clinton.