Last week Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli made the rounds at his office, passing out lapel pins with the Great Seal of Virginia on them.
Well, not exactly the Great Seal as we know it today. The commonwealth’s current seal (at right) features Virtus, the Roman symbol of virtue, standing over the prostrate body of Tyranny. “Sic Semper Tyrannis,” is the motto, translated “Thus always to tyrants.” Oh, one more detail: Virtus had a bit of a wardrobe malfunction. Her left breast is exposed.
The Cuccinelli pins were more modest: Virtus is covered up. The pins apparently drew their inspiration from a prior version of the seal.
Pundits previously had a field day at the AG’s expense when he advised our colleges that they had to remove protection of employees for sexual orientation from their rules; Gov. Bob McDonnell moved quickly to squelch that with an executive order. With the cover-up pins, the wags had new material to work with.
Where was Cuccinelli when former U.S. AG John Ashcroft was mocked for covering up bare-breasted statues in Washington a few years back? As an aside, classical art always has featured, even celebrated, nude human figures. What’s next, one wonders. Boxer shorts on Michelangelo’s David?
“The image on my office lapel pin is similar to that of a large antique state flag that hangs in the Virginia Capitol,” Cuccinelli said. “That is where I got the idea for my pin. I liked this particular image and thought it would be something unique for my employees.”
A terse e-mail from the AG’s spokesman yesterday noted that the cover-up pins, paid for by Cuccinelli’s PAC, are no more. The AG said, “I cannot believe that joking with my staff about Virtue being a little more ‘virtuous’ in this antique version has become news.”
He added, “This is simply a media-made issue that has become distracting to the work of my office.” Ah, not the first time a politician who stepped in a pile blames the press. “I am going to end this distraction by discontinuing future use of the pin,” he said.
Cuccinelli ran a smart and disciplined campaign for AG last year. True to his word, he said he wouldn’t dodge a fight; he’s taken on the Obama administration on a number of issues, from health care to environmental protection. But in his first few months in office, he’s also shown the capacity for a tin ear, picking unnecessary and divisive fights, such as the sexual orientation issue or this pin brouhaha. At least by squashing the pin problem so quickly, maybe he’s displaying an important talent: Knowing when to punt.