I'm going to speak out in defense of Attorney General John Ashcroft. He's getting batted around by Maureen Dowd in the New York Times and by others who say he's turned out to be that wing ding fundamentalist Christian prude they all predicted he would be

Here's the deal. The attorney general has taken to conducting news conferences in a large hall because so many reporters want to ask him questions about the war on terror.

There, he appears in front of a statue which is partially clad. It's a big statue. (Let's just say it's a Z cup.)

The attorney general's aides and assistants found this disquieting. He is, after all, a church man. After the press conference is over, which he is forced to conduct next to a semi-nude female figure, he's got to face his kids.

It reminds me of George Bush the first, who famously said: I am a grown man, the President of the United States, and I don't have to eat broccoli if I don't want to.

I think Ashcroft probably said, in private: I'm a grown man, a former U.S. Senator, the attorney general and I'm not going to appear before the world talking about terrorism sharing the picture with a... breast.

I think that because the aides and assistants spent some money — about eight grand — to buy a curtain to shroud the breast when the attorney general is in the hall speaking. It cost that much because it's a large breast, and it takes a large curtain to cover it.

So what's all the hollering about? He didn't drag the statue out to be melted down. He didn't run around nailing on fig leaves like the prudish Romans did. All his people did was buy a curtain to drape over the statue when he's talking in front of a thousand reporters.

I think this is more of the old let's-bash-Ashcroft stuff. These lefties know he's a modest, perhaps prudish guy. If they can make him share the world stage with a large bare breast, it's a wonderfully delicious gotcha.

Well, I think Ashcroft is right. I know something about appearing before thousands of people. Do you see me sitting here competing with any bare breasts? No.

It's not a matter of what they are. What they are is just fine. It's where and when they are. They are not here, and they are not in John Ashcroft's news conferences.

So let's let the matter of the breast ... rest.

That's My Word.

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