Does absolute power corrupt absolutely? Consider the downfall of New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, named in a federal complaint as a client of an international prostitution ring.

For it must be hubris that would make the governor of a state think that he could buy sexual favors from strangers with so little regard for the consequences.

Sure, other politicians before Spitzer have allowed their sex drive to do their thinking. That doesn't make Spitzer's behavior any more excusable.

This isn't even about the sex; a matter to be resolved, as Spitzer said, between him and his wife - and their three daughters. This is about a betrayal of the public's trust, a betrayal of those New Yorkers who now know the

honest

man they elected governor by a landslide in 2006 is a liar.

Spitzer as much as admitted that with his apologies Monday, though he didn't specifically say what he had done wrong. Those details were provided in a federal affidavit based on a wiretap that told of a "Client 9" paying $4,300 in cash for sex with a "petite, pretty brunette" named Kristen.

Spitzer has been identified as "Client 9." His tryst was apparently arranged through a sex-for-hire agency called the Emperors Club, which set up dates between wealthy men and more than 50 prostitutes in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Miami, London and Paris.

No charges were immediately filed against Spitzer, but there was discussion of whether he had also violated the Mann Act because he paid to have the prostitute travel from New York to meet him in Washington. This from a man whose resume included breaking up prostitution rings.

As New York's attorney general, Spitzer built his reputation as an enemy of corruption by going after corporate executives accused of graft. Just the mention of his name caused many on Wall Street to gag. They accused Spitzer of preferring the court of public opinion to jurisprudence, noting the times he made accusations without going to the trouble of ever producing an indictment.

Spitzer's tactics won him plenty of enemies, which makes it even more difficult to fathom why he thought he could get away with illegal behavior. It could have as easily been a blackmail plot that outed him as a serial philanderer.

Imagine what Spitzer might have done then to protect his political career from ruin.

Placed in a similar situation four years ago, New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey resigned immediately after it became known that he was having an extramarital affair with another man. Again, it was the lie, not the sex, that made McGreevey unfit to remain in office. He had abused the public's trust and made himself vulnerable to blackmail.

By now, Spitzer may have resigned, too - as he should. Politics is a four-letter word in this country because too many politicians have been caught telling too many lies. Restoring the public's confidence requires that each liar be removed.