When New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer strode to a podium at his New York City office Monday and apologized for unnamed sins, he said he was there to "briefly address a private matter." But Mr. Spitzer's alleged involvement with a prostitution ring, as detailed in federal court papers last week, was far more than a private matter. Not only did he violate the trust of his wife and three daughters, he also is accused of violating the public's trust by patronizing a criminal enterprise he once indignantly railed against as a top law enforcement officer.
Some would forgive Mr. Spitzer for his "private" sins, noting the likely hypocrisy of many of his critics and his string of successful prosecutions of Wall Street titans. But public moralizing accompanied by private misconduct is a toxic mixture that, when discovered, powerfully reinforces the public's mistrust of the motives and behavior of elected officials.
In public life, not much is private anymore. And the Spitzer sex scandal should serve as an object lesson, reminding all elected officials that their responsibilities are far deeper than favoring good government and sound policy. A strong commitment to ethical behavior is a foundation for public service.