By Jefferson Flanders

As Jimmy Cannon, columnist extraordinaire, used to say, “Nobody asked me, but…”

NEW YORK CITY MAY BE LOSING SOME GROUND TO LONDON as a center for financial markets, but the Big Apple will remain the world’s capitol of media, publishing, fashion, art, and pop culture whether or not some investments move from Wall Street to The City. The longer-term threat to New York’s reputation as the Center of the Universe will come not from London, but from Shanghai, another port city with economic vitality, ambitious people, and a long tradition of cosmopolitanism.

YOU CAN GAUGE AL GORE’S HUNGER FOR THE PRESIDENCY by checking out the size of his waistline. If he’s eager to be drafted as a compromise candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination looking as bloated as he did at the Grammy Awards—presenting the “Best Album” award to the Red Hot Chili Peppers along with co-presenter Queen Latifah (a bizarre grouping that could occur only in America)—doesn’t send the appropriately telegenic message that he’s fit, trim and ready to run.

Steve Kornacki of the New York Observer (itself recently trimmed into tabloid format) reports that Gore continues to weigh a 2008 run, but is delaying a decision until September, hoping to remain above the fray, and “…use the time to hit the gym and sweat off some of the weight he piled on the months after he conceded the 2000 race to President Bush.”

Before I face accusations of weightism, I’ll confess that I empathize with Gore on this (weighty) issue—it’s very hard to cut out enough carbs to get the bathroom scale needle headed in the right (and healthier) direction.

Gore will definitely stay in the public eye over the next few months. There is his likely Best Documentary Oscar win for “An Inconvenient Truth” on Feb. 25, and his “Live Earth ” climate change concert (Gore just announced the musical lineup this week) that will be a huge summer event. Meanwhile, long-time Gore backers assemble a draft campaign, and the former Vice President’s Gallup poll numbers swing up. Could it happen? Never say never.

As to the upcoming presidential race, when I recently suggested to a savvy Democratic pollster I know that the Electoral College map looked promising for Sen. Hillary Clinton’s ’08 presidential run, he demurred, arguing that Clinton could run into trouble in heavily Catholic Pennsylvania. He was sandbagging, in my view. With a Democratic governor, two Democrats in the Senate and a congressional delegation tilting blue, the tide is running Mrs. Clinton’s way.

The reality: it’s difficult to imagine Sen. Clinton losing any of the blue states carried by John Kerry in 2004, even if she is facing Rudy Guiliani or John McCain. If she carries Ohio (where the polls show her leading) , or Florida (where her husband is a decided plus in the black and Jewish communities), then Hillary Clinton becomes the first female president of the United States.

SUPPORT AMONG COUNTRY MUSIC ARTISTS FOR THE BUSH ADMINSTRATION’S IRAQ POLICY is waning, a development noted by the Boston Globe editorial board in its commentary “Speak up and sing.”

The Globe points out that the Dixie Chicks, outspoken in their dislike of President Bush, just won five Grammy Awards and that the music of other country singers, like Merle Haggard, Darryl Worley and Trace Adkins is reflecting a growing disillusionment with the Iraq war.

What the Globe editorial obscures, however, is that singers like Toby Keith, with his “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)” and Darryl Worley (“Have You Forgotten?”) wrote tough songs in response to the 9/11 attacks. Keith for one, says he opposed the Iraq war.

Country music singers are patriots, not partisans; many are blue-collar Democrats, including Keith, Tim McGraw (who apparently has political ambitions), Hal Ketchum (a member of the Music Row Democrats, along with Emmylou Harris and Nanci Griffith), and Billy Ray Cyrus (whose “We the People” became candidate Bush’s 2000 campaign theme song).

That isn’t to say there are many Nashville pacifists; country music’s roots are in the ballads brought to America by the Scots-Irish settlers of the Appalachian mountains and valleys, known for their sometimes violent frontier culture founded on male honor and religiosity. The Scots-Irish became a willing source of manpower for the American military for centuries.

As Walter Mead Russell pointed out in his 1999 National Interest article “The Jacksonian Tradition,” and James Webb reiterated in his book “Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America,” America’s Scots-Irish have little patience for limited wars: they believe in fighting to win, and winning quickly. That helps explain, in part, why the Bush Administration has seen support for its adventure in Iraq slip in Red States.

PRESIDENTIAL WANNABE JOE BIDEN has provided ample comic relief these past few weeks with his “let Joe Biden be Joe Biden” and “Barack Obama is clean and articulate” riffs. But the Maryland Senator is not always clownish; his op-ed piece in the Miami Herald calling for the immediate opening of the Nazi archives at Bad Arolsen for Holocaust survivors, historians and researchers is public service at its best.

Germany and other European countries are foot-dragging on this because of “privacy concerns, logistical problems associated with making the records widely accessible and fears of new legal claims,” but the real reason, I suspect, is embarrassment over the tale of complicity and inhumanity the files will tell. Biden is right to call for an immediate opening of the records, before it is too late for the many aged survivors.

OUR WORDS FOR THE WEEK come from the great New England poet Robert Frost: “Forgive, O Lord, my little jokes on Thee, and I’ll forgive Thy great big joke on me.”

Copyright © 2007 Jefferson Flanders

All rights reserved

Reprinted from Neither Red nor Blue.

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