Person of the Week: Chandra Levy

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A demonstrator asks the question of the hour

Gary Condit says he "is not perfect." He confesses that he has made his "share of mistakes." He is sorry that the Levy family is in pain. And he definitely doesn't want to talk about the specifics of his relationship with Chandra Levy.

Chandra Levy, on the other hand, is none of these things. She's just missing.

It's easy to forget that this story, after all, is about a missing 24-year-old intern. And it's even easier to get pulled under by the media wave surrounding Condit. But it becomes a bit harder every day to remember anything about Levy herself. If you read his fumbling admissions, sent out in a form letter to constituents earlier this week, it's apparent that Condit himself has fallen victim to that whirlwind. The letter is petulant, indignant, unhelpful — and it's all about Gary Condit.

As the media sinks its teeth deeper into the story, Chandra Levy's disappearance becomes less about the person and more about the scandal. Levy has been lost twice — first physically, and now in the media coverage.

Chandra Levy was, according to close friends, an extremely private person who guarded her confidences jealously. That penchant for secrecy may have appealed to Gary Condit. It does not, however, help investigators who are searching for hints, clues, intimations that might help them track her down.

Who is Chandra Levy?

Gary Condit describes her as "very nice, very smart, very interested in politics, very interested in her career." Her father calls her his "princess." Her mother keeps her childhood room like a shrine. She loved her family, and, by all accounts, her life in Washington. She was the archetypal "good girl." In all but one respect: Her apparent weakness for Gary Condit.

Her longtime friends describe Levy in flattering but contradictory terms: Introspective yet flirtatious; fiercely independent yet drawn inexorably to married men. There was one outstanding characteristic everyone agreed on: Levy was not the type to wear the "mistress" mantle.

It's ironic, then, that according to friends, Levy had had two or three affairs with married men before she ever met Gary Condit. Each relationship, her friends say, would culminate in Levy demanding a "real" life with her paramour — who would inevitably balk and push her away.

Did that obstinate streak scare Condit, leading him to end what Levy cautiously described to close friends as a "passionate" relationship? Was she pregnant, her condition threatening Condit's political career? Did she run away to Brazil, Greece, Singapore? We may never know.

We do know that when Levy's internship at the Federal Bureau of Prisons ended, she was disappointed, and told her mother as much. Fascinated by law enforcement since high school, Levy had hoped the temporary work, a requirement for her master's degree in public administration, might lead to a job at the FBI. Instead, Levy was unceremoniously relieved of her duties in April when it was revealed she had completed her coursework more than three months earlier. Saddened but certainly not distraught by this turn of events, according to her family, Levy planned to return to Modesto in time for her May 11th commencement from the University of Southern California.

She never made it home, but her parents are still waiting. Waiting for word from their lost daughter, whose futile passion may finally have crossed the line from unhealthy to truly self-destructive. It can only compound the Levy's pain to watch, less than four months after her disappearance, as Chandra is reduced to a sad footnote in a sordid narrative we've seen too many times before.