"All of us at times do things that are embarrassing," says former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is trying to rehabilitate his tarnished image by re-entering our lives as a TV pundit.
Gingrich was talking about Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif., who had an affair with an intern, lied to the press and authorities about it and now faces a public grilling over his misstatements and misdeeds. Gingrich took a much less forgiving attitude toward Bill Clinton when the then-president had an affair with an intern, lied to the press and authorities about it and faced impeachment. But that was before it was revealed that Gingrich at the time was having an affair with a staff member and lying to the press and authorities about it. Then Gingrich took his own grilling and got run out of Washington.
Not all of us do things that are that embarrassing. But now Gingrich has joined all the other former sinners who have filed their own transgressions under "absolved" and are prepared to offer amnesty to their cronies.
All of Washington, and most of network and cable TV, has been focused for weeks on the disappearance of 24-year-old federal intern Chandra Levy. Condit finally admitted to an affair with Levy and maintains he played no role in Levy's disappearance and possible death.
While most current members of Congress are conspicuously silent on the subject of Condit's affair, Gingrich is just one of the many "experts" filling the void on various talk shows, spouting off about the newest Beltway scandal. All the lawyers, journalists, lawmakers and professors who got their 15 minutes of fame during the Monica Lewinsky scandal are offering up their largely uninformed opinions yet again.
These guys must have gotten lonely after Clinton exited the building, because the Bush administration _ so far, anyway _ hasn't offered up anything nearly as juicy as the Condit-Levy mystery. And the hypocrisy that taints these judgments is almost laughable. As Gingrich proves, no personal scandal is enough to shame these people off the air forever. Just look at Dick Morris, the former Clinton svengali who was caught sucking on the toes of a prostitute. He now occupies a prominent soapbox on Fox News. Even Oliver North, who lied under oath to a Senate committee and then lied about his previous lies, broadcast his own moral opinion about Condit on Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, a young woman with a once-bright future is missing and feared dead, a tragedy that has been practically forgotten in this media circus. Chandra Levy has disappeared behind a cloud of hot air and mudslinging. She and her family deserve better.
Cate Doty, a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is an intern on the Times editorial board.