Writing about politicians requires 'sex-plus' rule

Thursday, July 26, 2001 at 1:00am

You need a license to write about a politician's love life. It's called "sex-plus."

Here are the rules: If it's a boozy sleepover, finished off with English muffins and French coffee the next morning, it's not a story. But suppose that the excellent young woman a politician meets in a crowded room the night before doesn't show up for work the next day. What if she leaves the face of the earth? Does anyone in the world think that's not a story?

"Sex-plus" is the news reporter's rule of engagement in Gary Condit's Washington. It is the same one that applied in Jack Kennedy's day.

Jack, as we know now, had this long-running thing with a gorgeous Jackie look-alike named Judy Campbell. He engineered each rendezvous with better precision and more secrecy than the Bay of Pigs. He had the room number. She would be ready. He would have a bottle of liquor on the table to make it seem like a party. Twenty minutes later, he would be heading down the hall to count delegates with Bobby. Judy would be headed back to her other boyfriend, Sam Giancana.

Ah! The "plus." Although it's not reportable that a politician has a very pretty girlfriend from the outside world, it is very reportable if that world happens to be the Mafia. If there's one thing worse than dipping your pen into the company inkwell, it's dipping it into the "family" inkwell. You don't need to be Tony Soprano to know that bit of professional etiquette.

So we could've

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