The main lesson of Schneiderman’s hypocrisy is simply that you can’t tell someone’s character from their professed politics. That’s a lesson we seem to need to learn over and over again, not only in political life but in private life. On both the left and the right, many people want politics to serve a kind of tutorial function. The law says what’s right and wrong, and by standing for right and against wrong you teach people to do right and not do wrong. It’s notable that Schneiderman’s accusers say they were blindsided by his actions in part because of his political stances, and that not only his power but also his prominent championing of women’s causes made them hesitate for a time before coming forward.

But inasmuch as the law has a tutorial function, it is dangerous to personalize it in this way. Politics attracts deeply troubled individuals, and makes it all too possible for them to indulge in their worst pathologies, whether self-destructive or violent to others or both. Quite often, those same people then use their official rectitude as a shield against scrutiny, heightening the contradiction between their behavior and their professed beliefs. And so, voters go through this repeated process of heartbreak.