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The silence of the feminists


Michelle Easton

     Except for her disappearance, the story of Chandra Levy is typical of what happens daily, hourly to interns in the nation's capital. They come for no more than a few months, work in the office of a powerful public figure, and too often are mesmerized by the majesty of government in action. If the great man notices them, they are flattered. If he makes advances, they too often respond – more out of awe than out of desire or genuine affection.
     The less fortunate ones fall in love, as apparently Chandra Levy did. Friends have said that she hoped to marry Rep. Gary Condit, share his exciting life, bear his children – all this despite the 30-year difference in their ages and the fact that he already had a family. Only a cynical philanderer could have nurtured such an improbable dream; only a very young woman could have believed in it.
     What has surprised many hardened observers is how cavalierly the Washington establishment is treating the case. Democrats and Republicans alike are "reserving judgment." Until Thursday's inteview with ABC's Connie Chung, the major news networks virtually ignored the story for two months. And, after driving Bob Packwood out of the Senate like a band of Greek furies for lesser offenses, the women's movement has remained uncharacteristically silent.
     In an effort to determine just why feminist leaders in Congress were so "non-judgmental" about the Levy-Condit affair, interns at the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute called these Senate offices, with frustrating results:
      The office of California's feminist Sen. Barbara Boxer's office reported that it had established no policy governing relationships with interns, then transferred the call to the Senate Ethics Committee. (The Ethics Committee, it turned out, had not such policy either.)
      The office of Maryland's feminist Sen. Barbara Mikulski promised to "get back" to our intern – but never did.
      The office of California's feminist Sen. Diane Feinstein said "no comment" when asked about the Levy-Condit affair.
      The office of Washington's feminist Sen. Patty Murray put our intern on hold three times, then transferred her to voice mail. When asked point blank about the Levy-Condit affair, a staff member said, "No comment."
      A staffer in the office of Louisiana's feminist Sen. Mary Landrieu said they had a manual that covered intern relations, but they refused to mail the Luce Institute a copy.
      The office of Michigan's feminist Sen. Debbie Stabenow said they would call back – but never did.
     Our interns encountered similar resistance when attempting to contact feminist House members Anna Eshoo, Nancy Pelosi, Juanita Millender-McDonald, Jane Harman, and Maxine Waters. These outspoken women had become catatonic at some point after Anita Hill, but before Monica Lewinsky.
     As the Condit-Levy story unfolded, feminists and other Washington insiders continued to argue that sexual misbehavior had nothing to do with one's ability to serve in Congress, that Condit, like Bill Clinton, had a high job approval rating in his district. The more you examine that proposition the more absurd it becomes.
     In the first place, Rep. Condit broke the promise he made to his wife at the time of their marriage, a vow sworn before witnesses. Is it important for a politician to keep his promises? Apparently the feminists and Mr. Condit's colleagues on Capitol Hill don't think so. Having decided to commit adultery with Chandra Levy and others, the congressman engaged in elaborate subterfuge to prevent discovery. Is it important that a congressman be open and honest rather than devious and deceitful? Apparently not to politicians and to feminists.
      Mr. Condit told Chandra's parents, his staff, and the police that his relationship with the intern was not sexual, that the two were just friends. Later he admitted he had lied. The first hours and days of a search for a missing person are critical to police – I know this since I served as the first director of the Missing Children's Program during the Reagan administration. Mr. Condit's lie could have made the difference between this intern's life and death.
      Is it important for a congressman to tell the truth to authorities, to people with whom he works, to constituents? A lot of Washington politicians and feminists don't think so. Furthermore, they insist that we have no right to judge Mr. Condit's conduct, just as we had no right to judge Bill Clinton's – but every right, indeed every duty, to judge Bob Packwood and Clarence Thomas.
     Adultery is a crime in the District of Columbia. Is it important for a congressman to obey the law? Not that law, say feminist and other congressmen.
     The feminists once denounced a "double standard" that allowed men a sexual license denied to women. Today they practice a new double standard that allows Democrats a sexual license denied to Republicans.
     Meanwhile, Washington has become more perilous to female interns than ever before – because few and fewer people in the capital will come to their defense. Partisanship now overrides mere sexual exploitation – perhaps even murder. Feminists now defend the right of Chandra Levy and other interns "to make bad choices." Thus has the feminist movement abandoned these young women to the whims of Washington politicians – at least, to those who belong to the politically correct party.
      Michelle Easton is president of the Clara Booth Luce Policy Institute.



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