Elected officials are human, but it nonetheless is disappointing and somewhat shocking when they make choices and engage in behavior that dishonor themselves and their families and raise questions about their fitness to serve the public.
New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer is only the latest government official to break faith with the people he represents by engaging in behavior that he said Monday violated even his own "sense of right and wrong." According to law enforcement officials, Spitzer was caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet a high-priced prostitute. On Tuesday, the governor was being pressured to resign from office in the face of the sex scandal.
Unfortunately, the picture of Spitzer admitting shameful behavior, with his pained wife standing at his side, is not unique. Similar scandals rocked the White House under President Bill Clinton and ended the presidential campaign of Democrat Gary Hart. Allegations of homosexual relationships struck Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho and led to the resignation of New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey. We in Kansas watched the demise of our attorney general, Paul Morrison, only a year after he was elected because of allegations of an extramarital affair with a member of his Johnson County district attorney staff.
A number of questions continue to haunt spectators of these debacles. How can people who know they are under intense public scrutiny be so reckless in their behavior? How can it be so important for them to engage in improper sexual activity that they are willing to risk the reputations of themselves and their families - not to mention their political careers? And, perhaps most importantly, how can they think they won't be caught?
Perhaps there is no connection between the personality traits that lead to a political career and those that, when not kept under control, also can lead to personal scandal, but it's hard not to notice the common relationship between power and arrogance.
There obviously are thousands of honest, conscientious elected officials in America who serve their constituents well and at least appear to conduct their personal lives in a respectable manner. It's unfortunate that a few rogues exhibiting monumental lapses of judgment have such an eroding effect on the public's trust for everyone in elected office.