Why did it have to take a murder?

Posted: May 29, 2002 12:00 AM
On May 22, exactly one year after her disappearance, the scattered remains of Chandra Levy were found in Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C., prompting police to renew their quest to find out what happened to the intern. This, while the rest of us wonder what has happened to our elected officials. The story is familiar. Levy, a 24-year-old intern in Rep. Gary Condit's D.C. office became intoxicated with her boss. An affair ensued, and Levy nourished fantasies about the representative leaving his family for her. Condit, who was married with children, was more pragmatic. The affair was just one of many alleged dalliances he had with other women. To this day, Condit has refused to fully acknowledge the extent of their relationship, referring to Levy only as a good friend. Now, I am not one of those conspiracy theorists who think Levy's disappearance was part of a cover-up by Condit. The sheer fact of Condit's adultery does not make him a murderer. It simply makes him savagely careless with the emotions of those closest to him. Police have also revealed that a serial killer was stalking through Georgetown and the Rock Creek area at the time of Levy's disappearance. She could have simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time. As Albert Camus once observed, "sometimes people die, and for no reason." A meaningless death is perhaps the saddest thing in the world. It does not, however, mean that we should give order to the tragedy by pointing a conspiratorial finger at Gary Condit. Condit's political career is over. Unless we learn more, that is punishment enough. Levy's disappearance does raise another point: it shouldn't take a murder to raise the issue of adultery in the public's consciousness. Every summer young, idyllic interns come to the nation's capital with the hope of contributing to their government. Every summer, a certain portion of them fall victim to the sexual predatoring of our elected officials. People like former Rep. Gerry Studds, who had sex with a young male page; people like Congressman Barney Frank, who attempted to influence a judicial decision to help out a homosexual prostitute; people like Sen. Edward Kennedy, who sat idly by as his young aide, Mary Jo Kopechne, drowned in the Chappaquiddick; people like President Bill Clinton who obstructed justice and perjured himself in order to cover up his affair with an intern. It shouldn't take the death of Chandra Levy for our elected officials to feel uncomfortable trying to nail as many young interns as possible. And yet every summer the scene is the same: young interns are invited to government functions where they are plied with drinks and a sense of significance. Meanwhile, our elected officials leer hungrily at them. Sexual predatoring follows. This has gone on for too long. Perhaps it will change with the attention that the Levy case has received. It shouldn't take a murder for people to gaze into that ugly reflection and re-adjust their moral compass. But maybe now our elected officials will be less apt to violate - for the sheer sport of it - those young people around them. One can only hope.