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Public Eye



They seized the White House, won a Republican majority in Congress, and now they've got nothing better to do than whine about Gary Condit?

The Republican Restoration Weekend at The Broadmoor hotel had its amusing moments -- like when a panel of four conservative black men and a white guy earnestly informed a room packed with lily-white upper crusters that the Republican Party is a true haven for people of color.

And there was that hilarious flier, hyping a soon-to-be-published book titled Aid and Comfort: Jane Fonda in North Viet Nam, claiming it will "prove conclusively that there was sufficient evidence to indict and convict Jane Fonda."

Jane Fonda? Or how about feminists, especially NOW? Jimmy Carter? Commies? The Liberal Media? Big Brother? With the exception of Bill Clinton, the Republicans' weekend-long enemies' list was so pass -- like a dust-off from 1980.

The Restoration Weekend, a project of David Horowitz's Los Angeles-based Center for the Study of Popular Culture, was touted as a right-wing version of the Democrats' annual Renaissance Weekend, where high-powered liberals gather to wonk at each other about public policy.

The headiest event of this $1,400-a-pop Labor Day weekend's Republican version -- attendee Robert Woodson described it as the "most honest debate and discussion" of the weekend -- was the panel discussion "What Does Gary Condit Tell Us About Ourselves?" As moderator Mike Rosen explained, "Gary Condit has been the summer of entertainment for us."

This was where the unbearably screechy syndicated columnist Ann Coultier attacked Chandra Levy -- who, let's all remember -- is missing and presumed dead.

"She was a dimwit hussy," Coultier insisted. "I don't want to be insulting, but we don't need to turn [Levy] into Madame Curie to say Condit probably killed her."

Another panelist, Lucianne Goldberg, suggested that the congressman may actually be covering up yet-to-be-uncovered fetishes.

Up until 1998, Goldberg was blessedly unknown, her only claim to fame being the author of Madame Cleo's Girls -- an obscure novel about a trio of high-class prostitutes. But then Goldberg splashed her way into the headlines for her notable role in convincing Linda Tripp to wire herself while engaging galpal Monica Lewinsky in some juicy girl talk.

Now, is a one-woman industry, and she counts among her clients former LA cop Mark Fuhrman, who, she informed Sunday's GOP crowd, has told her that Gary Condit is clearly guilty of murder, because "he acts like a man who is sure the body will never be found."

"That's what's made this so fun, being armchair detectives," Goldberg said. "I hope in my heart he did it -- he deserves to have done it."

Fellow panelist, Georgia Congressman Bob Barr, compared Condit to Wile E. Coyote and said the whole mess is indicative of a transformation in American politics from real life to a cartoon world.

"Republicans just don't do this. We as a party have great respect for the law," Barr declared.

Immediately after the debate, Colorado Gov. Bill Owens declined to assign a level of gradation on the morally reprehensible scale of which is worse: Condit's affair with a 24-year-old or the governor's own former re-election co-chairman and Republican political appointee Randy Ankeney, who was charged last month with picking up a 13-year-old girl off the Internet, getting her stoned and drunk, photographing her topless and then sexually assaulting her.

"What a sleazeball," the governor said of his former friend.

But for panelist Patrick Caddell, enough was enough. On Monday, Labor Day, he let 'em have it.

Caddell, who once worked for Carter and George McGovern, and more recently a consultant and writer of The West Wing TV show, delivered an impassioned chastise to the crowd, citing the hypocrisy of the weekend.

Cemeteries are full of American soldiers whose gravestones do not carry a "D" or an "R," Caddell reminded the crowd.

American journalism -- the so-called "liberal media" -- is owned by a handful of conservative corporations who give a rat's ass about newsroom budgets or operations. "We've created a world where the press is not free," Caddell reminded the crowd.

Jimmy Carter did not rape the American Constitution, Caddell reminded the crowd. Carter did not trade weapons for hostages, as Ronald Reagan did.

Both major political parties, Caddell reminded the crowd, have sold out to the highest bidders, and corruption in politics is neither free speech nor Democracy.

There are good liberals and good conservatives. "Character is the only thing that matters," he practically bellowed.

Amazingly, Caddell got a hearty applause from the audience. Many of them, gauging the looks on their faces, were just being polite.

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