In this day and age, it's kind of amazing how quickly a public figure can fall from grace -- and how it's so often caused by the tiniest thing. A flub caught on YouTube, say, or an inappropriate sentence on a MySpace page.

Today's entry in this file comes from Colorado, where last week state Rep. Mike Merrifield caused a firestorm of controversy that ended in his resigning as chairman of the House Education committee -- in the span of about 36 hours.

On Thursday, Face the State, a Colorado politics blog, posted an email Merrifield had written in December, in which he had criticized charter school supporters. But his criticism was a little...abrasive:

"There must be a special place in hell for these Privatizers, Charterizers and Voucherziers. They deserve it!"

Not surprisingly, the email, which Merrifield sent to Sen. Sue Windels, the chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, quickly set off a lot of controversy. It's likely an email like this would catch attention any time, but the state Senate is set to debate a bill -- sponsored by Merrifield and Windels -- that would restore public school districts' authority over most charter schools in the state.

On Friday morning, the story had been picked up by the Rocky Mountain News, the Denver Post and the Colorado Springs Gazette.

By Friday afternoon, Merrifield had apologized on the House floor and had stepped down from his committee chairmanship.

It's just another form of the age-old lesson, kids: NEVER WRITE IT DOWN.