Saturday, June 25, 2005


By William Fisher

Well, I’m glad that’s over!

Victoria’s Secret, Janet Jackson, and all the rest of us, can now breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Drapes are out. Breasts are back.

That was the big news from the Department of Justice over the weekend (though Justice seemed to want to keep it as quiet as possible). On Friday, workers removed the blue drapes that have modestly covered two scantily clad statues for the past 3 1/2 years.

Spirit of Justice, with her one breast exposed and her arms raised, and the bare-chested male Majesty of Law, were back to their au natural state in Justice's Great Hall.

Installed in 2002, the drapes ensured that the then-Attorney General John Ashcroft could speak in the Great Hall without fear of a breast showing up behind him in television or newspaper pictures.

Late night comics also had a titillating chuckle at the expense of the evangelical Ashcroft.

Every time I saw Ashcroft’s successor, Alberto Gonzales, with a long face, I knew he must be agonizing over this weighty affair of state: Drape or Breast. I never really believed him when he said (regularly) he had more important things to consider.

Still, I suspect a tad of ambivalence. The Associated Press was refused permission to photograph the statues in their bold new state.

The AP reminded me that when former Attorney General Edwin Meese released a report on pornography in the 1980s, photographers dived to the floor to capture the image of him raising the report in the air, with the partially nude female statue behind him.

Republican Richard Thornburgh, attorney general under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, must have experienced similar indecision. According to our friends at the AP, he had the drapery put up only for a few occasions when he was appearing in the Great Hall, rather than permanently installed as it was under Ashcroft.

But it ain’t over ‘till it’s over, and this is decidedly a story with legs. The rumor is that Congressional Democrats are asking the General Accountability Office, as well as James Dobson, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, to investigate the propriety of spending $8,000 on a bunch of drapes.