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Condit Miserably Fails 10 Commandments Test

July 13, 2001|STEVE LOPEZ

It was almost exactly two years ago that Rep. Gary A. Condit, the son of a Baptist minister, voted to permit the display of the Ten Commandments in schools.

"Congress probably should spend more time obeying the Ten Commandments and less time trying to exploit them for crass political purposes," Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said at the time.

Prophetic observation, you might say. Especially given the fact that each day, Condit seems to tread the boundaries of yet another commandment in the continuing saga of missing intern Chandra Levy.

Everything in the God-fearing family man's life suddenly seems a contradiction, if not a macabre joke. On the Democrat's Web site, for instance, there's a link to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. And you can click on "Intern Opportunities" to find the following:

"Whether interning in Modesto, Merced, or Washington D.C., working in one of Rep. Condit's offices can be an extremely rewarding experience."

The feds are now looking into whether the beleaguered Modesto area congressman obstructed justice or encouraged perjury on the part of a flight attendant. She claims Condit urged her to sign a statement denying an affair between them.

And the Washington Post reported that a Pentecostal minister from Modesto says his daughter had an affair with Condit when she was 18.

Any day now we'll be seeing bumper stickers in California's Central Valley and inside the Beltway: "Honk if your daughter had sex with Gary Condit."

Condit's public relations firm, which may have to go on a hiring frenzy to keep up, called the story of the alleged liaison with the 18-year-old "discountable."

I don't know what Condit's paying these duffers, but you begin with "baldfaced lies," and if they keep coming, you call your accusers a "guttersniping cabal of fringe lunatics."

"Discountable" sounds like you're ready to plea bargain.

But as someone who had the Ten Commandments drummed into me while wearing a maroon sweater, white collar and gray corduroys, it's the moral rather than the legal implications that interest me today.

Or, as a woman told me this week in downtown Modesto, the hypocrisy with Mr. Ten Commandments is difficult to suffer.

Condit has "certainly broken two" of the commandments, says a Benedictine monk I've been corresponding with. But if she were alive today, Sister Maryanne, who used to wack me like a redheaded stepchild, would no doubt have applied a broader interpretation of the Decalogue, regardless of what version we're talking about.

1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Guilty, Sister Maryanne would have said. Being weak of mind and spirit, he has worshiped the flesh of the young.

2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven images, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above.

Guilty. He has piously waved the cross before the nation.

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

He may be OK here.

4. Keep holy the Sabbath.

Or, at the very least, pray with the minister's daughter while he's away delivering the Sunday sermon.

5. Honor thy mother and father.

Trouble here. What's Condit's father going to tell his flock?

6. Thou shalt not kill.

Maybe we're getting ahead of ourselves here.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

The words "hellfire and damnation" come to mind.

8. Thou shalt not steal.

From her grave, Sister Maryanne waves a ruler and asks: "Has he not stolen the honor of the office, the faith of constituents and the trust of his wife?"

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

My friend the monk weighs in: "He has presented himself as utterly other than he is in condemning Clinton and others."

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, nor his wife.

Eternity is a long, long time.

*

Steve Lopez can be reached at steve.lopez@latimes.com. His regular column is on B1.

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