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Sun., Sep. 21
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Shameful behavior

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Eliot L. Spitzer’s decision to join the race for New York City controller adds an exclamation point to a primary election featuring defrocked political failures attempting to resurrect themselves.

Former Gov. Spitzer will be on the ballot along with Anthony Weiner, an ex-congressman who left office in disgrace when he was snagged in a scandal of tweeting various photos of his physique to women other than his pregnant wife. Mr. Weiner is in New York City’s mayoral race.

After a vigorous two terms as attorney general to become governor, Mr. Spitzer immediately labeled himself the “steamroller.” He took on the state Legislature in what turned out to be an 14-monthlong circus of failed ethics initiatives, travel scandals, outrageously gutter language and tactics to intimidate legislators and their leaders.

It came to quick end when he was found to be consorting with $15,000-a-night prostitutes in Washington’s toniest hotels. He promptly resigned in March 2008.

Now he is back accepting what he claims is public forgiveness and asking to be heard. He wants to explain his career as the sheriff of Wall Street and governor.

However, in the cold eye of history maybe those years weren’t the highlights he remembers. His signature Wall Street case against AIG and its CEO, Maurice Greenberg, resulted in no criminal charges, some out-of-court settlements and court actions against Greenburg, which continue to this day. Not a particularly successful outcome of an action initiated in 2005.

Mr. Spitzer’s career seems to prove that he senses he is immune from the law whether through hiring call girls for his personal use or how he financed his political campaigns. His first run for attorney general was supposed to have been paid for from his own assets.

It was not. In reality, he had borrowed the money and then his father paid off the bank loan. But Mr. Spitzer stuck with the story four years later when running again before finally admitting he had lied.

A campaign that features Mr. Spitzer and the sexting Mr. Weiner convinces New Yorkers from Long Island to Malone and Jamestown that the state’s former political greatness has been destroyed by politicians who do not know when to go away. The state watched a horrid performance in Albany this winter as assemblymen and senators were indicted, sued and accused. New Yorkers cringed as Assembly leader Sheldon Silver used state cash to hush up victims of sexual predations by members of his caucus.

New Yorkers are disgusted by the behavior of these alleged leaders. They want them out of office. But it is the re-emergence of Mr. Spitzer and Mr. Weiner claiming redemption that reinforces the notion across the state that voters need to take action at the ballot box to clean up Albany and New York.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is trying to speed the process of cleaning house by the appointment of a Moreland Commission empowered to examine the venality of government. His action came as a direct result of the self-proclaimed innocence of legislative leaders claiming immunity from the repercussions of behavior for which other New Yorkers suffer criminal penalties.

Without Republican and Democratic party leaders finding new and credible candidates to satisfy the craving of voters for honesty and transparency, the state is destined for years more of political dysfunction.

What New York needs is a clean sweep in September by a large outpouring of voters who reject Mr. Spitzer and Mr. Weiner, and it needs new leadership in the Assembly. Sheldon Silver should leave the post as speaker or he should be removed by Democrats committed to representing the best interests of the women and men in every Assembly district in the state.

Mr. Spitzer, Mr. Weiner and Mr. Silver symbolize what is wrong with New York politics. Their arrogance should be rejected, and they should leave public political life behind.

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