WASHINGTON -- Look out, Internet sextrepreneurs: John Aschroft wants you to serve hard time.
In explicit terms, the attorney general told Congress this week that hardcore sex sites would no longer be selling peeks at balloon-breasted babes.
"I am concerned about obscenity and I'm concerned about obscenity as it relates to our children," Ashcroft said in his first appearance before the House Judiciary Committee.
He said Justice Department prosecutors would help state officials imprison sex-site operators that feature obscene images: "We try to be especially accommodating to local law enforcement to assist them, and I would think that would be an objective of ours in this respect."
A number of Republicans asked Ashcroft to pledge to prosecute raunch and ribaldry, but Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia -- who also, unbelievably, is co-chair of the Internet Caucus -- was the most persistent.
"The failure of the (Clinton) administration to enforce those laws has led to a proliferation of obscenity, both online and off," Goodlatte said. "And I am particularly concerned about the safety of our children on the Internet, where they're subjected to child pornography and solicitation in a massive way."
Asked Goodlatte: "I'd like to know to what extent the Justice Department will use its resources to assist state and local enforcement in combating this cyberattack on our nation's children."
Goodlatte was also a big fan of the Communications Decency Act, which the Supreme Court tossed out in 1997 as an affront to free speech.
Obscenity, which the Supreme Court ruled is not protected by the First Amendment, is textual or graphical material that appeals to someone's "prurient interest," runs afoul of local community standards, and lacks any literary, artistic, political or scientific value.