BOB GARFIELD: Gary Condit. You may remember him as co-sponsor of House Resolution 134 that supported National Civility Week in its efforts to restore civility, honesty, integrity and respectful consideration in the United States. Or you may know him from the case of the still-missing intern, Chandra Levy. Either way, if you're a voter in his district, he wants you to get to know him once more, and to that end he's campaigning in Modesto, California. He recently invited Frank Bruni of the New York Times Magazine to tag along to get a taste of that old Condit magic. Frank, welcome to OTM.
FRANK BRUNI: Thanks for having me.
BOB GARFIELD: If Gary Condit is trying to win the vote in his district and he believes he's the victim of the national media, why in the world would he invite the New York Times to ride along with him?
FRANK BRUNI: I think he invited us in a sense to show that he has nothing to hide or to assert that he has nothing to hide, and the New York Times was one of the news organizations that did not pay an enormous amount of attention to the whole Chandra Levy scandal, and at this point his poll numbers are pretty bad; his fund raising is no better; and I don't know what he has to lose.
BOB GARFIELD:Well I know what he's got to lose -- I've read the piece and it portrays a man very nearly pitiful in his denial surrounded by family members with what looks to me like a kind of sympathetic sense of denial and paranoia. I don't know if that's the way you read your own piece.
FRANK BRUNI: What I encountered as I talked to him and spent several hours with him was a guy who's become so convinced of his own victimization that he seems to have lost sight of his hand in it.
BOB GARFIELD:Yeah, you said in your piece -- in his heart he knows he's right. The key word to me in that is "knows." Does he genuinely believe that he had done nothing to warrant the--[LAUGHS] excessive scrutiny that he's received?
FRANK BRUNI: He believes that the one thing that is let's say a fact not in dispute, which is the affair with Chandra Levy, is his own business; not something that has any implications on his public service, and since he has told himself and convinced himself of that much-- he then proceeds to the fact that many pundits, specially on, on you know cable news stations basically convicted him of foul play in the disappearance of Levy with no hard evidence, and no charges from the police, and he focuses solely on that. And if you only look at that, you can see why he feels aggrieved.
BOB GARFIELD:There is a moment where you say that the Congressman implies that the Levy family owes him a debt of gratitude for keeping their daughter's name in the news. What was that moment like?
FRANK BRUNI: I asked him if before he decided to run again he - if he had thought about the impact that might have on the Levys, and what he said to me which was quite surprising because it was, it was so indelicate and it was a peek into his own sense of persecution I think, he said that they should be happy he's running again, because if he does not remain in Congress and stops being a figure in the news, you won't hear much about Chandra any more and the case and the cause to find her will disappear.
BOB GARFIELD: Was there any reaction to what you've written from his camp? Are they going to think they got hosed?
FRANK BRUNI:I don't know. People read things in a lot of different ways. The piece makes very clear that Gary has been an extraordinarily good Congressman for his district. The piece takes note of what an intelligent and authoritative law maker he can be, and in that sense I think they'll look at it and say well, that's fair. In the sense that it portrays a guy who seems to be in the grip of a strange kind of defiance that some people might even find to be delusion, well maybe they won't - won't like that, but it's a very accurate portrayal of what I encountered.
BOB GARFIELD: Well Frank Bruni, thank you very much.
FRANK BRUNI: Thank you very much.
BOB GARFIELD: Frank Bruni writes for the New York Times Magazine. His article: Gary Condit is Still Running is in this week's issue. [MUSIC]