Cuccinelli channels John Ashcroft, censors Roman goddess’ clothing on the Virginia seal.

The “Great Seal” of the Commonwealth of Virginia depicts the Roman goddess Virtus standing over the defeated Tyranny and has been in use since 1776. Virtus is holding a spear and a sheathed sword, and the garb she is wearing exposes her left breast. (An earlier rendition of the seal traced back to Thomas Jefferson shows the goddess wearing even less clothing.) However, far-right Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) is now tinkering with the historic seal:

The seal depicts the Roman goddess Virtus, or virtue, wearing a blue tunic draped over one shoulder, her left breast exposed. But on the new lapel pins Cuccinelli recently handed out to his staff, Virtus’ bosom is covered by an armored breastplate.

When the new design came up at a staff meeting, workers in attendance said Cuccinelli joked that it converts a risqué image into a PG one.

The joke might be on him, said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato. “When you ask to be ridiculed, it usually happens. And it will happen here, nationally,” he said. “This is classical art, for goodness’ sake.”

Cuccinelli’s spokesman said that the pins were paid for by funds from the attorney general’s political action committee. In 2002, Bush attorney general John Ashcroft became the subject of national ridicule when he “spent $8,000 on blue drapes” to cover two nude statues at the Justice Department. An unscientific poll on the website of the Virginian-Pilot finds that 96 percent of the more than 4,000 people who have taken the survey think Cuccinelli’s decision was a “bad idea.”