Politicians go to extraordinary lengths to convince voters and constituents that they are hard-working, sober and utterly devoted to their families and to societal betterment.
But by polishing their public images, they set themselves up for particularly big falls when events prove that they are lazy, addicted and/or prone to personal sleaziness.
The past week has been a bonanza for those who relish tales of politicians gone bad, with San Diego Mayor Bob Filner the latest and greatest poster child for boorish behavior.
Filner has been mayor for scarcely a half-year but he was in Congress for 20 years before that and, it has been alleged, has been something of a lech who makes physical and verbal advances to women so aggressively that it amounts to harassment.
After a group of former supporters publicly criticized him for his behavior and demanded that he step down, he released a video apology and admitted he needed help, but refused to resign. The drumbeat became even louder Monday when his former fiancée said she broke off their relationship because of his behavior and joined the chorus demanding that he resign from the office he narrowly won last year.
The ex-fiancée, Bronwyn Ingram, said, "Bob recently began texting other women sexually explicit messages and setting up dates while in my presence and within my line of vision."
Meanwhile, a 72-year-old woman said in a signed affidavit that when she visited Filner in his mayoral office to discuss a local matter, he began putting moves on her almost immediately.
"She was horrified and humiliated by the experience," her lawyer, Cory Briggs, said. "The man she thought would champion her cause betrayed her trust."
As more women step forward with lurid Filner stories, the demands for his resignation will continue to build and the odds that he can survive politically will become ever-longer. Would-be successors are already lining up.
But Filner was not the only politician in the news the last few days.
Two New York politicians who had been forced out of office amid sleazy sex scandals, former Gov. Eliot Spitzer and former Rep. Anthony Weiner, launched comeback campaigns for city offices in New York City Spitzer for comptroller and Weiner for mayor.
The New York Times said opponents were characterizing their campaigns as "two wayward men obsessed with reclaiming power and unworthy of redemption."
Finally, a nearly naked Sonoma County supervisor, Efren Carrillo, was arrested early Saturday morning for trying to break into a woman's house in Santa Rosa. "I realize that my behavior was embarrassing," he told the San Francisco Chronicle in an email. "It involved alcohol and I'm taking immediate steps to seek professional help."
You can't make this stuff up.