Of drawing fire and tempests in teapots: Cuccinelli opts for historical seal on personal gifts

So in my wanderings of the blogosphere this morning, I stopped off at one of my normal haunts for local color, Too Conservative. It’s a blog that deals with local and state issues and is one of the most “community-oriented” blogs I’ve run into. (Meaning that they have a rather large, loyal, and vocal following and most of their posts over there generate discussions that are dozens and sometimes hundreds of comments long.) A recent post referenced a couple of items of Virgina-level interest, one being a WaPo article on how some conservatives in Virginia don’t consider Bob MdDonnell conservative enough (hogwash, my opinion) and the other being a decision by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to have lapel buttons made for his staff that made use of a version of the Virginia State Seal that has the principle character’s attire changed.

The Seal shows the Roman goddess Virtus victorious over tyranny, standing with her foot on his chest and holding a spear and a sword. Officially codified in 1930, the Seal shows Virtus dressed as an Amazon which the artist or artists contracted to make the Seal rendered as a woman wearing a helmet slid back on her head to expose her face and a knee-length tunic draped from her right shoulder, leaving her left shoulder and breast exposed. Have a look here:

This is the current, official Seal of the Commonwealth and it’s on every flag and official document in one form or another. So, the flap about Cuccinelli’s gift is that he had the lapel pins made using an older version of the Seal that shows Virtus with a full breastplate armor, meaning that her chest is unexposed. Like this:

Critics immediately pounced on this fact as a demonstration of Cuccinelli’s nutball conservatism. I mean, just look at what this guy did. He’s so uptight he can’t bear the sight of an exposed breast, right? Now, to be completely fair, Cuccinelli drew some of this fire himself by making a joke about it saying that Virtus was more virtuous in this rendering. Get it? Virtus? Virtuous?

Har de har. Good one. Real knee-slapper. By the way, Cuccinelli says it was just a joke and his staff understood that because they laughed about it. I’m sure some did find it funny – and it’s a bit amusing, certainly – but has Cuccinelli been out of workplace environments that long that he doesn’t understand that most people do laugh at the boss’s jokes? Come on, Ken…

However, the critics – mostly on the left but some over here on the right – are glossing over a couple of very pertinent facts. First things first, these were privately purchased gifts, paid for with private funds and were never represented as official in any capacity. All of these stories about Cuccinelli “censoring” the Seal are completely bogus red herrings designed to generate ill will and nothing more. Second, the constants references I’m seeing at places like Not Larry Sabato (a Virginia-based lefty blog you’ll have to search for your own link to) and the Huffington Post to the “234-year-old” Seal, or words to that effect, blithely ignore that the Seal we have today is not the one that was in use during the Commonwealth’s entire history. Here are 3 versions from 1851, 1889, and 1904.

As you can clearly see, Virtus is completely covered up in all of these images. In fact, notice in the 1851 version, tyranny is down but not dead, yet. In the 1889 version, he’s dead and Virtus is holding her spear at his throat, presumably either having just dispatched him or staying at the ready in case he’s playing ‘possum. (Smart girl.) The bottom line is that it’s not some right-wing, conservative crank idea to change up Miss Virtus from fashion-by-Lindsay Lohan to the poster girl for Interceptor Body Armor. It’s a look with an established history and people trying to make some sort of philosophical crisis out of it are making a mountain out of a molehill. As Mr. Cuccinelli himself said, can we get back to the real news now?