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Jewish World Review August 31, 2001 / 12 Elul, 5761

Robert L. Haught

Robert L. Haught
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Two Garys, going the same road -- THE season's big sex-and-politics scandal has produced a flurry of comparisons between fellow philanderers Gary Condit and Bill Clinton. Many commentators have pointed out similarities in their adulterous pursuits and the lies they told to protect themselves.

True, government interns young enough to be their daughters were involved in the most notorious of their affairs. And the California congressman is using character assassination against his accusers, much the same as the former president did.

But that's about it. When it comes to making the public overlook one's misbehavior, Condit simply is not in Clinton's league. If there ever was any doubt, the Connie Chung TV interview erased it. Comparing "Stone Cold Condit" with "Slick Willie" as a virtuoso of prevarication is like comparing the third place winner of the county fair fiddling contest with Jascha Heifetz. If Clinton had handled his extramarital missteps as clumsily as Condit has dealt with his exposure as a serial seducer, the 43rd president wouldn't be sitting on top of an $8 million book deal and flitting about the world with a grin on his face. He popped up in Rio de Janeiro, in the company of actor Anthony Hopkins. Reuters reported the two men went shopping along "the trendy Ipanema beach promenade," where Clinton bought two bikinis. (One for Chelsea and the other for the junior U.S. senator from New York? The mind boggles at the thought. At least he didn't buy any thong underwear.)

Going back to Condit, a more apt comparison might be found in a politician of another age -- another Democrat named Gary with an Oklahoma connection. Former Sen. Gary Hart was a pioneer of sorts in learning the consequences of getting caught cheating on one's wife with a campaign in the offing. Consider these similarities:

Gary Condit was born in Oklahoma (Woodland Junction, near Salina), the son of a Baptist minister. Although not an Oklahoman, Gary Hart lived in the Oklahoma City area four years while attending Bethany Nazarene College from 1954 to 1958.

Hart shaved a year off his age in his official biography. Condit altered his birthdate from 1948 to 1942 when he got married in 1967. (State law at that time required men under 21 to obtain parental admission to wed. He was 18.)

Condit wore a disguise when going out with a girl friend. Hart changed his name from Hartpence when he went to Yale Divinity School in 1958.

Playgirl Magazine named Hart one of the "Ten Sexiest Men in America." Condit was featured on "Susan Molinari's Hunks of the House 1998" calendar, along with Rep. Steve Largent, R-Tulsa.

Condit traveled several miles to northern Virginia where he was seen throwing a watch box into a trash can. Hart pulled a dumb stunt when he allowed himself to be photographed, a blonde in his lap, on a boat appropriately named "Monkey Business."

Hart, in announcing his candidacy for president in 1988, had hit hard on ethical issues, proclaiming publicly that he was an ethical person. Condit criticized Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and urged him to "come clean." He told Connie Chung, "I think I am a moral man."

Condit took precautions to prevent anyone from seeing women visit his apartment in Washington. Hart responded to rumors about infidelity by inviting the news media to "follow me around." The Miami Herald did and later reported blonde model Donna Rice from Miami had spent the night in Hart's Washington town house.

Hart abandoned his presidential campaign a week after the town house incident. Condit is being pressured not to run for re-election to Congress because of his relationship with 24-year-old Chandra Levy, and the incredibly stupid way he has conducted himself since her disappearance.

Two guys named Gary with a similar Oklahoma past, going down the same road.

JWR contributor Robert L. Haught is a columnist for The Oklohoman. Comment by clicking here.


08/24/01: Dog days are laughing matter, stories set tails wagging

© 2001, Robert L. Haught