The sexting scandal of Anthony Weiner, the disgraced former congressman and current New York mayoral candidate, puts into focus the importance of character to public service.
Weiner's texts, tweets and photos show not just a tawdry person but a risk-taking, deceitful individual who continued his serial texting and lied about it even as he prepared to run again for office.
His wife, Huma Abedin, is standing by her man and expects the public to defer to her judgment as to his fitness for office.
It is Abedin's personal business as to whether she will forgive and support Weiner, but it is presumptuous and wrongheaded for her or Weiner's supporters to lecture voters about how they should exercise their prerogative in assessing his suitability.
This bizarre notion that we should separate our public officials' private behavior from their public lives gained alarming credibility during the Clinton years, when the president's enablers adamantly insisted that all of his improper behavior was private and of no concern to the public.
"It's a private matter involving sex," they chanted, attempting to immunize even Clinton's felonious perjury from investigation because the underlying facts about which he testified and lied "concerned a private matter about sex."
They used the same mantra to paint as private, irrelevant and innocuous his episodes of oral sex in the Oval Office with a young intern -- a textbook example of sexual harassment because of the power disparities between those involved.
In this postmodern age, many -- especially secular liberals and partisan Democrats -- are all too eager to demand that private and public character be separated. All that should matter is whether a public official's policies, especially economic policies, are successful.
Common sense, experience and fundamental ethics tell us it's folly to believe we can separate a politician's private character from his public performance -- that the success of an official's policies is all that should matter.