Is Condit Damaging America?

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This is a partial transcript from The O'Reilly Factor, August 30, 2001.

Now for the top story tonight.  What exactly is the damage that Condit is causing to the nation?

Joining us from Utica, New York, is pollster John Zogby of Zogby International and, from Washington, president of The Polling Company, Kellyanne Conway, a Republican.

Kelly, I want to start with you.

I have in my hand here a survey of Americans saying which professions they trust.  Dentistry is number one, with 75 percent of Americans trusting dentists.  They don't know mine.  The last one, politicians, 12 percent of the American public trust politicians.  Lawyers, 28 percent.  Politicians are half what lawyers are.

Can you explain this?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER:  Yes, this has been a growing and disturbing trend.  As public confidence in some of our major institutions continues to diminish, you see that Congress sort of is mired in the basement of that public confidence.  I think pollsters and even TV journalists are higher up than -- than Congress.

And the problem, Bill, is very simple, that, for years, people suspected that members of Congress and elected officials lied and -- and hid the truth.  But now they have confirmation of that.  They have Exhibit A, Bill Clinton; Exhibit B, Gary Condit.

And I do want to say that this has a proportionately depressing effect on voter turnout and also on the recruitment of solid candidates.  More and more people refuse to participate in a process now because they believe that going to the ballot box, pulling the lever, is a way of endorsing the action and inaction...

O'REILLY:  Yeah, I think that's an excuse, Kelly, and...

CONWAY:  ... of our elected offices.

O'REILLY:  I think that's an execution because let's say -- the republic needs participation, but I agree with you that a lot of people are just throwing up their hands.

Now, Mr. Zogby, I think that another very insidious part of this Condit situation is that very serious issues, the economy being the most important, another disaster -- we're going to have a report on the economy later on on the The Factor.

But very serious issues are being ignored because of the frenzy around this Condit situation.  I understand the appeal to the story, but as I said on The Factor, some people are just going crazy on this thing, and we're not getting all the information we need to get out to the people.

Am I right?

JOHN ZOGBY, POLLSTER:  Oh, I think so.  Yeah.  Remember, of course, all this played out during the summer, you know, when there are summer doldrums, especially now the -- you know, the president away on vacation and much of August and focus away from, you know, the activities of Congress, the activities of the government and its day-to-day affairs.

So, a salacious story like this, a missing person's story, the real strong prospect that a congressman has lied and has lived a double life, that's the sort of thing that is the stuff that make the tabloids and, of course, these days with the feeding frenzy of the media, the tabloids, in many~ ways, are the tail that wags the dog.  So...

O'REILLY:  All right, but there's -- the corrosive effect that it has is that other information that's important -- I mean, what is going on with the economy?  You know what I mean?

Every day, Greenspan leaves his house. The market goes down another 150 points, and we're sitting here reeling, but there's been very little attention paid to that because the media and the American people are caught up in this mystery.

That's what's driving this story, Mr. Zogby.  It's a mystery.  They don't know whether Condit did anything to Chandra Levy or not.  That's the key question here.

ZOGBY:  No...

CONWAY:  Well, we need to wake up with that, in my view, gentlemen, because if Americans are going to spend more time choosing from a menu of options from the board at McDonald's than they do choosing between candidates and options, then we're going to get the government we deserve, and I fear that inertia is the governing physical force in politics until Americans friction steps in.

Do you know more Americans now probably have a higher name recognition of Gary Condit than their own congressman?

O'REILLY:  Oh, sure.  No question about it, but you...

CONWAY:  That's sad.

O'REILLY:  ... but you can't fight the tape, Kellyanne.  I mean, you just can't.  I mean, I see those ratings -- television ratings every night, and it is astounding to me how many people will sit there and watch the same thing over and over again.

Now Mr. Zogby took a poll right after the Chung interview and just tell us briefly what that poll taught you.

ZOGBY:  Well, basically, it begged the question "Why did Gary Condit even do the interview?"

His numbers were even worse after the interview than before.  Ninety-three percent told us that basically he -- he was acting out of his own political needs.  Only 2 percent thought that he wanted the truth and wanted the truth to come out or cared about Chandra Levy.

By a factor of 83 to 15, nationwide, voters told us that they would not vote for him if he were their congressman.  Over 80 percent told us that they had serious problems with the fact that he withheld information from Chandra's parents and from the D.C. police.

O'REILLY:  Of course, he says he didn't.

ZOGBY:  I mean, it was a disaster.

O'REILLY:  Of course, he says didn't do that, but the American people don't believe him.  So...

ZOGBY:   No, they don't -- and it's not even close, and that's the point.

O'REILLY:  Right.  And then that begs the question -- we're going to bring you both back for another segment -- because that begs the question: If 83 percent of Americans want the guy out of there, all right, and say, "Look, he doesn't deserve to be there," why is he still there?

We'll have more with Mr. Zogby and Ms. Conway in a moment.

And then, the inside story of how Nikolay Soltys was captured in California.  Very dramatic.

Back in a moment with those reports.


O'REILLY:  Continuing now with the effect on the public of Gary Condit's continuing disturbing behavior.

We're talking with pollsters John Zogby from Utica, New York, and Kellyanne Conway form Washington.

I just want to fill the audience in on the -- the top four professions as far as trusts are concerned in America -- dentists, doctor, waiter and waitress.  That -- that is interesting.  Teacher.  Those are the top four where people trust those people.

Bottom four: lawyer -- I understand that -- insurance agent -- kind of maybe unfair rap there -- car dealer, and politician.  They didn't do the journalist thing.  We would be down there, I'm sure.

Now, Kellyanne, you have a situation where Gary Condit will not resign from office, inexplicably.  I mean, I just thought anybody with any shred of dignity would.  You're a Republican, so I'm assuming that you believe he should get out of there right away.

CONWAY:  I believe he should but not because I'm a Republican and he's a Democrat.  I believe he should because I'm part of the public who pays my taxes and, by extension, his salary.

Those who think that the, quote, "public" -- "private life of a public figure," end quote, deserves some sort of protected sanctuary are wrong because we have a right as taxpayers and citizens of this country to expect Congress to be a smut-free zone.

Republicans are speaking less today, Bill, than Democrats privately about Gary Condit resigning because Dick Gephardt has a real challenge in front of him.  Does he want the Democratic Party to be continually associated with Clinton, Clinton, Condit, Kennedy, or does he want to really extract the cancer before it spreads?  And I hope...

O'REILLY:  Well, you know...

CONWAY:  I hope he comes -- you know, he...

O'REILLY:  There was some partisanship in your statement there, Kellyanne, but I'm going to let it go and get John Zogby's opinion here on whether Condit is hurting the nation by not resigning.

ZOGBY:  Sure.  I mean, we all get up in the morning and do what we normally do to get ready for the day and live our lives.

So hurting the nation?  No.  Hurting the image of Congress and of politicians?  Absolutely.  Maybe having a dent on the Democratic Party?  Probably that as well.

But in an era already where half of the adults who are eligible to vote don't vote, this is the sort of thing that comes under the column "Who Needs It" and...

O'REILLY:  OK, but there's been a shift, has there not, in this country?

When you have a guy in Waterbury, Connecticut, the mayor of the two, who's indicted now, I believe on federal charges, child molestation, and the guy doesn't resign?

I -- it doesn't seem there's any shame.  You know, the word "shame" isn't in our lexicon anymore, is it?

ZOGBY:  Well, I think -- I think that there is a sense of shame, whether these two or three men are -- are shameless, you know, is debatable.  I think there's a lot of shame as far as the rest of the country is concerned, almost every other adult.  I think these guys stand out in their shamelessness.

O'REILLY:  You know, a good question for your next poll would be, "Are you ashamed of Gary Condit?  Are you ashamed of him and his behavior?"  I'd like to know that.

Kellyanne, what do you think?

ZOGBY:  Next...

O'REILLY:  Do you think most people would be -- would be that judgmental -- because it takes a judgment to say, "Yeah, I'm ashamed of the guy."

CONWAY:  And we lack judgment as much as we lack shame in today's society.  That's true.

I do think -- for a while, we've been asking about specific politicians, "Are you proud or embarrassed that so-and-so is your represented official?" and it's very difficult to have people pass judgment.

I do want to say, though, those professions, Bill, that you mentioned of having the highest degree of confidence are the ones that we Americans seem to have more direct contact and more frequent contact with, and that's relevant here, too.

Congress as it erodes public confidence is making itself less relevant to everyday concerns, and because power breeds arrogance and arrogance seeks power, many people believe that those who are in positions of power, like congressmen, but also others in our society, don't really share their concerns because they don't drive themselves anywhere, they don't buy their own groceries...

O'REILLY:  Well, certainly, Gary Condit -- yeah.

CONWAY:  ... they don't balance their own checkbooks.

O'REILLY:  Certainly -- certainly, Gary Condit does not share the concerns of any American because he's in it for himself.  I mean, as Mr. Zogby pointed out, 83 percent of Americans would not vote for the man.  I mean, that should be enough for him just to clear out his desk right now, but he -- I guess he needs the money.

His kids -- his own kids quit their job over -- resign -- resign over outrage about how he's treated, and then he stays there.  I would -- as a father, I would have said, "Hey, kids, keep your job.  I'll resign.  Don't hurt yourself."

Mr. Zogby, Ms. Conway, thanks very much.  We appreciate it.

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