The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

July 8, 2013

Invest in honor and respect

Daily Item

---- — Over the weekend, disgraced former New York governor Elliot Spitzer -- he of the prostitution scandal that led to him to resign less than a year and a half into his term -- announced he will run for office in New York City.

Spitzer becomes the third high-profile politician in recent months to jump back into the political ring, hoping the electorate has either forgiven or forgotten past missteps. For the most part, it seems to be working.

Anthony Weiner, the New York representative who got too social on social media texting photos of his anatomy, is among the favorites to become the next New York mayor. Mark Sanford, whose bizarre story of an extra-marital affair with an Argentine woman led to his resignation as South Carolina's governor, was elected as a representative from the same state last month.

All three seriously violated traditional norms for propriety in public office. Yet here they are, on the verge of a return to public service.

Should we not expect exemplary behavior -- as in a model for all -- from those who embody the public trust? Naked ambition is a pejorative metaphor, not a photo-op.

Unfortunately, the problem is not exclusive to metropolitan or national offices. Locally, we have a police chief who has served time in jail for trouble in his distant past. We have another representative who admitted to abusing his then-wife, yet won election several years ago.

America is built on second chances. There may be a time and place for forgiveness in all of us.

But forgiveness should not be the threshold qualification for public office that it seems to be.

Like it or not, people we entrust with justice, finance and public policy are role models for generations, in their own time and, then, in the annals of history.

When voters discover, to their chagrin, that some men and women who attained public office did not belong there in the first place, there is no religious or civic virtue in returning them to a second place.

Votes are a citizen's most precious currency. Invest them with respect and intention.

Don't waste votes on some glad-hander's juvenile tantrum, mid-life crisis or adolescent fantasy.

That dishonors and disrespects the true and sometimes final devotion thousands have made to keep us free.

Instead, find office holders who somehow achieved to adulthood without exhibitionism, adultery and assault.

Invest in them.