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Silda Spitzer was betrayed, and she’s in good company

I admit that I’m curious.

What, exactly, is included in $5,500-an-hour sex? Does the woman sweat Dom Perignon? Are you massaged with an oil distilled from the tears of virgins? Do you get a complimentary big screen?

There are, of course, more important questions raised by the stunning implosion of New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s political career this week after he was named by federal officials as a customer of a high-priced prostitution ring.

The biggest one, as I see, is simply this: How?

How can a man do such a thing to his family? How can he do it to himself?

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Yes, I know the popular wisdom: all men are canine. But the popular wisdom doesn’t answer the questions. Even if you believe every man is a slut helplessly in thrall to carnal wants — and I don’t — it does not explain this. After all, the issue here is not sex. With apologies to Bill Clinton: It’s the hypocrisy, stupid.

Consider the astonishingly long list of high public officials and self-appointed moralists found — or in a few cases, strongly suspected — to be preaching one set of values while living another. It starts, of course, with the aforementioned Bill Clinton, whose indiscretions precipitated a constitutional crisis. But the list also includes: Jesse ("keep hope alive") Jackson, Larry ("wide stance") Craig, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, former Spokane Mayor James West, the Rev. Ted Haggard, Newt Gingrich, numerous priests of the Catholic church (It’s 10 o’clock — do you know where your altar boy is?), Strom Thurmond (apparently, he liked integration more than he let on), Mark Foley, Rudy Giuliani, New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey (some of us pronounce it, "McGreasy"), Gary Condit, Dan Burton, Bob Packwood and Henry ("a youthful indiscretion") Hyde.

And that’s just in the last decade or so. Go back a few years and you’ve got Jim Bakker, Wilbur Mills, Gary Hart and Jimmy Swaggart, crying tears that would shame a crocodile. Go back even more and you find John F. Kennedy and Thomas Jefferson.

Point being, yes, I know there’s nothing new about hypocrisy. There is, however, something new about this era of cell phone cameras, 24/7 news cycles, You Tube, diminished privacy and intrusive journalism. You’d think a smart man (that’s not an oxymoron, right?) would realize this and adjust accordingly. You’d think he would have sense enough to pack it — either the career or the extracurricular activities — in.

Instead, with an arrogance that beggars description, with a hubris that blots the sun, they try to game the system. And when it catches up with them, they don’t even bear the greatest cost. No, that’s borne by wives who must stand, dead-eyed and humiliated, by their sides through the ritual of apology, by children who must go to school the day after, by constituents who believed and now see that belief betrayed.

Do you know how hard it is to believe? To overcome cynicism and inertia and place fragile trust in the hands of someone who claims to represent values higher than expedience and self? Do you have any idea how much a fool you feel to see that belief, tenderly given, callously trampled? Do you know how much less likely you are ever to give belief again?

And finally, do you know how much it damages us, the larger us, when faith is calcified by cynicism? When we become unable to believe?

I don’t know what the governor received when he — allegedly — paid $5,500 for an hour of a prostitute’s time.

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I hope it was worth it.

Pitts is a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the Miami Herald. Send comments to letters@postbulletin.com.

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