I began to fret this past week when the FBI turned the Chandra Levy mystery over to its Cold Case Unit. Not just because I hope they find the poor girl, but because I am gripped by a gnawing fear that the media may also start to pull out on the Congressman Condom story. Please don’t!

I can only shudder to think what my favorite cablemeisters will obsess over if they don‘t have Condit-Levy to chew on as we lope into the dog days of August. A Princess Di retrospective? One more exhumation of Jon-Benet? An O.J. pay-per-view?

No thanks. Chalk me up as among the 63 percent of Americans who say they are ”somewhat“ or ”closely“ following the Levy story. Put me in the fanatic faction. And, by the way, what’s wrong with this gaggle of Girl Scouts, Earnest Citizens, Civic Journalists and Professional Hand Wringers who harrumph that the Condit story isn‘t what they deem to be ”news“? What country do they think they are they living in? Liechtenstein?

It’s so easy for the media to spin out of control on a story like this, but I can‘t help but think the more times we expose the hypocrisy of our leaders — whichever political party they represent — the greater the chances are that we might actually end up one day with politicians who deserve our vote. That’s a pretty deep thought. Right now, I must admit I‘m just enjoying the story.

Just look at the developments of the last two weeks that began with Congressman Dirtball’s admission 67 days late that he had an affair with his missing intern, that continued with him denying a coupling with a gardener‘s teenage daughter, that moved to a DNA swab of his mouth, that veered into the revelation that his Manson look-alike brother is a violent criminal fugitive, that proceeded with Condit being seen tossing a gift from another girlfriend into a distant dumpster, and culminated a few days ago with the pious puffbag Democrat voting in favor of Dubya’s Faith-Based Initiative. Whew! Does it get any better than that? Hopefully, yes!

I know the counterargument. ”But, fine Sir, this sleaze is distracting us from the real news.“ That was the phantasmagoric position taken for 10 weeks by the CBS Evening News and that tower of editorial integrity, Dan Rather (the same network that doused us with Survivor!).

For every hour of Condit coverage, goes the argument, there‘s one less hour available for the networks to cover the demise of campaign-finance reform, the folly of the Bush energy plan, the ongoing radical redistribution of wealth upward.

In other words, to cover all the things they never cover anyway. If Levy had never disappeared, would CNN and MSNBC and ABC for that matter suddenly be doing specials on the endangerment of the blunt-nosed leopard lizard? And would you be watching? Indeed, when Condit was filmed the other day while in congressional deliberations, that was probably the first time in history that network cameras had as much as noticed the existence of the House Agricultural Committee.

But more importantly, this sleaze-slide is not only fun, it’s educational. Far from being just an immensely amusing sideshow, the Gary Condit story highlights the worst, and therefore the essence, of the modern American political-media-entertainment complex. If you don‘t like it, if it makes you sick, then you better do more than change channels. You better change cultures.

At its center is an archetype among current-day elected officials, one more blow-dried Swinging Dick who quotes Scripture by day and spends the other 18 hours on the clock chasing tail. And in this case, quite similar to another recent one that floats to memory, it’s not only about the powerful and the privileged preying on young interns, but also about possible attempts to obstruct justice and suborn perjury at a minimum.

It exposes the always delicious hypocrisy of the Republicans. Fabled whipped-cream licker Bob Barr and Confederate panderer Trent Lott demand that Condit resign. A good idea, for sure. But they provide all the wrong reasons.

Closely behind the GOP are the Democrats, who after all burnished their own special hypocritical talents by pimping for Slick Willie during his salacious final three years. What does it take nowadays in America to get the Democrats to forthrightly call for the resignation of one of their own? Withholding information in what is effectively a murder investigation seemingly no longer ”rises to the standard.“ Or is this also ”just about sex“? House Minority Leader and the new darling of the ”progressives“ Dick Gephardt wouldn‘t go any further than saying, ”The focus should be on finding Levy.“ All indications, he said, are that Condit has fully cooperated with authorities. And ”I did not have sexual relations with that woman Miss Lewinsky.“

Condit’s PR team already tore one page from the Clinton playbook when it whipped out the ”nuts and sluts“ defense, whispering to reporters that Levy was dangerously promiscuous.

Even that smear couldn‘t provoke the public ire of fellow Democrats. Demonstrations in front of Condit’s office demanding that he go are populated solely by Free Republic radicals of the right.

Fact is, the Democrats are praying Condit will not resign (or get arrested), but it has nothing to do with right and wrong, the public and the private, or sex and lies. They are only worried that in any special off-year election, Condit‘s open seat will be snatched by the GOP. Before dumping Condit, the Democrats want to gerrymander his district to hold on to it in 2002.

So, let the coverage continue. This is a story that not only resuscitated but actually managed to unite the opposing media-pundit teams from the salad days of Zippergate. Gore Whores like Lanny Davis and Cynthia Alskne together at last and in agreement with conservative columnist Ann Coulter and ex–federal prosecutor Barbara Olsen. Even some new media ground has been broken.

Hats off to Geraldo and to Fox News, who as a result of this case have gang-pressed pseudo-novelist Jackie Collins and parapsychologist Sylvia Browne into service as onscreen political analysts, no less. Move over, Gergen, Shields, Stephanapolous and Roberts. America’s finally getting the caliber of pundit that its political system so richly deserves.

And, pipe down and pass the popcorn.

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