Suzanne Fields

Charles Colson, the ruthless hatchet man of the Nixon administration infamously willing to "walk over his grandmother" to get Richard Nixon re-elected, and who served seven months in prison for participating in a psychiatrist's office burglary on behalf of that campaign, demonstrated repentance by helping others. After prison, he established a prison ministry and worked on prison reform.

Shakespeare's Prince Hal, the future King Henry V, caroused in taverns, drinking and hanging about with lowlife and generally self-indulging as a wastrel youth. His father was ashamed of him. But, he disavowed his lowlife friends, even the much-loved Falstaff, to demonstrate that he could reform when it came time to ascend the throne.

It's not clear whether Bill Clinton paid any private debt for the humiliation he inflicted on his wife, but he can no doubt feel his own pain in the wake of the Spitzer scandal, as it draws attention again to his dalliance with Monica. However, there's a difference between Clinton's seductive "charm" and Spitzer's far from charming purchases.

Betrayal of the public trust nearly always counts for more than private immorality. This was dramatically brought home in the presidential campaign of 1884. Grover Cleveland, the Democrat who was the model of "official integrity," had fathered an illegitimate child in his bachelor days. James G. Blaine, the Republican who had been involved in railroad scandals, mercilessly mocked Cleveland's tawdry "copulative habits." Republicans reveled in chanting, "Ma, Ma, where's my Pa?" When Cleveland won, Democrats answered with triumphant mockery of their own: "Gone to White House, Ha, Ha, Ha!" But when you betray both personal and political trust, as Eliot Spitzer is learning in his considerable pain and humiliation, it's no laughing matter.

Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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