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Libby sentence

06/07/07 12:00AM By Cheryl Hanna
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(HOST) Earlier this week, a judge sentenced Lewis "Scooter" Libby to serve thirty months in prison for lying to federal investigators about his role in the leak of CIA officer Valeria Plame's identity. Commentator Cheryl Hanna shares her thoughts on the case and what we can all learn from it.

(HANNA) Believe me, I take no joy in "Scooter" Libby's downfall. There is nothing to celebrate when a high ranking and dedicated public official, entrusted with the public's well-being, falls from grace.

Nor do I feel sorry for Libby. He had his day in court. The judge's sentence seems fair given the overwhelming evidence that Libby lied to investigators. Disrespect for the rule of law, in an attempt to gain political advantage is, by far, one of the worst transgressions a public official can make.

It seems to me that the judge had no choice but to sentence him to jail. The American public would lose faith in the legal system if the judge were to be influenced by all those letters from powerful people, including Henry Kissenger, who requested he go easy on Libby. No one can stand above the law, and the sentence makes that clear.

Still, there are lessons that can be learned from this case, particularly about Hubris - or excessive pride. And as any student of the Seven Deadly Sins knows, pride is the first and most deadly of the sins. In many ways, Libby is like a classic Greek protagonist, whose arrogance leads to his downfall.

What's particularly troubling to me about the Plame leak is the transparency of the strategy. I find it hard to believe that the White House really thought most Americans read Joe Wilson's editorial in the New York Times criticizing the President - or that they would think less of him because his wife worked for the CIA.

So I suspect that the Plame leak was less about discrediting critics than it was about revenge.

It was meant to chill dissent. Hubris made Libby believe that he could get away with it - hence lying to federal investigators.

And thus, let what happened to Libby be a lesson to us all. Regardless of one's political affiliation, it's quite easy for those who hold the public's trust to become so blinded by their own power that they abuse it. The recent scandal involving the firing of U.S. attorneys is another sad example of this kind of pride-driven abuse of power. It's simply unconscionable that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would claim that these attorneys were fired because of performance when the political motivations for the firings are as plain as day.

Maybe what public officials need most is a lesson in humility. Part of being humble is not personally attacking one's critics, and not trying to ruin lives to enhance your own power.

I thought the Peter Welch-Martha Rainville Congressional race last fall was one of the most refreshing examples of humility and grace, and both candidates deserve much credit for that.

They both understood something Libby lost sight of: what goes around, sometimes at least, comes around.

Cheryl Hanna is a professor at Vermont Law School in South Royalton.

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