A fair price to pay?

Published 10:24 am Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Little more than two years ago, then-governor Bob McDonnell was a rising star in national Republican politics and was suggested by many pundits to be on the shortlist of candidates under consideration to be Mitt Romney’s number two on the 2012 presidential ticket. There were even whispers that, based on his successful tenure as Virginia’s governor, he could soon mount his own campaign for president.

Yesterday, he was sentenced to spend two years in prison on federal corruption charges.

This newspaper has previously taken the position that regardless of whether McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, had broken any laws by accepting loans and gifts from businessman Johnnie Williams, as governor and a seasoned political veteran he should have had enough sense to avoid becoming involved in such an unseemly relationship to start with.

McDonnell didn’t dispute having taken gifts from Williams, only that he hadn’t broken any laws in doing so. But he did break public trust. And for that, a price has to be paid.

The former governor’s political career is almost assuredly over. His family life appears to be in shambles. By all appearances and his own admission during yesterday’s sentencing, he is “a heartbroken and humbled man.”

Is two years in prison a sufficient public penalty based on the crimes he was found guilty of having committed? Given the inequities in sentencing guidelines used for doling out prison time for various infractions, it is nearly impossible to say with any certainty. It is clear though that McDonnell is paying a much steeper price than just the 24 months he will soon be spending behind bars.

Is it enough?