What was Eliot Spitzer thinking?

A meteoric political career appears about to come to a humiliating end. And it should — because of the astonishing arrogance and appallingly bad judgment that led New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer to take a pointless and potentially ruinous risk in ordering up a prostitute to be dispatched to Washington to entertain him the night before he was to testify before Congress.

The Democratic crime fighter who basked in the nickname “Eliot Ness” seemed oblivious to the danger that by bringing the woman across state lines he was committing an offense that would put him in the hands of the feds.

The venue Spitzer chose, the Mayflower Hotel, is a popular political gathering spot where he could have been easily recognized. And the fun wasn’t cheap. The cost of the services of the petite “Kristen” was $4,300. It was the governor’s efforts to disguise his payments to the escort service that first attracted the attention of bank officials and the Internal Revenue Service.

As New York attorney general, Spitzer built a national reputation as a crusader against corruption in government on Wall Street. The 48-year-old father of three won election as governor in 2006 by a margin that indicated his career in New York state politics was limitless. Even though his first year in office was rough — Spitzer was harsh and combative even by New York standards — there was talk of a career even beyond New York, perhaps as our first Jewish president.

The feds obtained a warrant for a wiretap and the evidence of the governor’s reckless behavior became part of the public record as did a new nickname, “Client 9,” the escort’s code for their distinguished client.

On Monday came that most pathetic spectacle in American politics — the stone-faced but dutiful wife standing behind her sinning spouse while he apologizes to all and sundry, promises to make things right with his family and takes no more questions at this time.

America is the land of second chances and New Yorkers are a tolerant bunch, so there well may be a comeback in his future. But first he has to go away.