By Betsy Rothstein - 02/11/08 05:06 PM EST
More than six years after the disappearance of Chandra Levy ended his political career, former Rep. Gary Condit (D-Calif.) has come out of hiding. He recently gave an interview to California Conversations, a small magazine published by a Sacramento lobbying firm. The piece debuts Tuesday and can be viewed at www.california
Condit sat down with staff writer Terry McHale in a Denver hotel for an interview that lasted more than six hours. The talk was among the first he has done since retreating from Washington to Phoenix, where he first ran two ice cream shops. The Condits no longer run the shops but have branched out into other businesses and investments.
The accusations of marital infidelity arrive on page 10, but the highlight of the 19-page piece doesn’t come until pages 14-15, when Condit declares, “I did not have a romantic relationship with Chandra Levy.”
At which point the interviewer asks, “Are you drawing a distinction between a romantic relationship and a sexual relationship?”
Condit: “It’s none of your business. I mean, if I were to start answering it, well, then, how many times did you have sex? All these other women that have been mentioned, did you have sex with them? It just goes on and on. My private life is my private life. If we don’t reclaim that, we’re all going to be designated as public people and we will have no more civil liberties. I stood my ground. I guess people will determine whether that’s correct or not.”
As for Levy, he says, “You never think anything bad will happen to someone you know. A few days went on [after her disappearance], and I have never told anyone this publicly, but I got a call from a network news source. The reporter said they’re going to try putting you in jail. Frankly, I was never, ever scared because I knew the truth.”
McHale staunchly defends Condit.
“For most people, their introduction to Gary Condit was the [Chandra Levy] tragedy,” explains McHale, who says he came away from the interview with great admiration for the Condits. “I liked them very, very much when it was over.”
McHale hales from Condit’s old district and said he scored the interview with Condit using a connection he made through Condit’s son, Chad, and with the help of his old boss, Rusty Areias, a former California legislator and friend of Condit’s.
“The truth is, for those of us who grew up in the [California] Central Valley, Condit … was somebody who was really a remarkable figure. There was more to him than just the tragedy,” he says.
McHale also spoke with Condit’s wife, Carolyn, their two children, and “probably a dozen or so friends,” he said. He described Condit as content.
“He’s at an age where he’s lucky enough to go home and have a wife that loves him, and it was very interesting to see that up close,” McHale said. “The loss of Chandra Levy was a terrible, terrible thing, but that wasn’t Gary Condit. There is so much more to Gary Condit.”
Get out of Sen. Byrd’s way, please
Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), the all-knowing eldest member of the Senate, made quite a scene last week as he made his way from the Senate Chamber to the elevators after a vote.
Walking with two canes and an entourage of staffers, Byrd, 90, hobbled through a hectic hallway that was filled with reporters. Suddenly Byrd, his white hair long and wild, piped up and shouted, “Make way for liberty!”
With that, the elevator doors opened, and “liberty” disappeared.
A special nasty Valentine from the RNC
With the subject line proclaiming, “A special Valentine from the GOP,” the Republican National Committee’s campaign staff sent out a series of Valentine’s Day cards Monday morning.
“Please share these cards with your family, friends, and favorite Republicans to remind them of what the Democrat candidates really stand for and why they shouldn’t be anyone’s sweetheart,” the e-mail says.
Six cards feature Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.). A card from Clinton reads: “If I could rearrange the alphabet I would put T and AX together.” A card from Obama states: “Three years in the Senate qualifies me to wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day.”
Ouch. (View the cards at www.GOPValentine.com .)
Rep. Cohen’s sweet moves
It was an early Valentine’s Day for Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) last week when Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) approached her in the Speaker’s Lobby with a crinkly fragment of newspaper.
On it was a blurb from the Memphis Commercial Appeal from 1983 that Cohen had managed to dig up. It quotes Kaptur, then a freshman lawmaker, on the need for jobs and the economy being in crisis.
The congresswoman was obviously touched by the gesture.
“That’s so sweet of him,” she said.
Sighting: ‘American Idol’ contestant in Cannon
Antonella Barba, a former “American Idol” contestant, was spotted in the Cannon House Office Building last week.
The trusty ITK informant who saw her found her attire questionable: “If she was there for her first day as an intern, I believe they should have sent her home for not wearing pants. Just leggings and a sweater dress. Maybe a little too risqué for the halls of Congress, but you know interns these days.”
As far as ITK knows, Barba, who worked as a waitress at Lounge 201 and attended Catholic University, is not a new intern on the Hill.
Senate Press Secretary Association elects board
Some esteemed press secretaries and communications directors have been elected to posts on the Senate Press Secretary Association’s board.
They include: Stephanie Allen (Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.); Jesse Broder Van Dyke (Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii); Ashley Glacel (the Aging Committee); Joanna Kuebler (Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio); Margaret McPhillips (Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss.); Sarah Stevenson (Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah); and Lisa Wink (Senate Chaplain).
At the helm of these spokesmen and -women is Gregory Keeley, communications director to Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who was elected president.
The group hosts social gatherings and regular meetings with notable speakers.
Past speakers have included political strategist James Carville, polling expert Frank Luntz and White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry.
As for future speakers, Keeley explains, “We have not had time to draw up a list … and frankly, to quote the great anchorman, I am in a glass case of emotion.”
He does offer a wish list that includes comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert; the host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Tim Russert; Democrat National Committee Chairman Howard Dean; and White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.
Also wanted: a panel of Capitol Hill gossip columnists.