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Man in Black, Blue or Red?

250pxjohnny_cashnixonWhen the GOP launched a new e-mail blast against John Edwards, they mockingly called him “Johnny Cash.” It’s a riff on his costly haircuts, expensive home and higher taxes — and they branded Edwards on a $1 million bill and sent it out to Iowans.

That didn’t sit too well with the late singer’s estate, which politely asked the party to cease and desist, which it did.

“We’re in a ring of fire,” joked an RNC official to U.S. News’ Washington Whispers. “They called us and said they had some issues with the trademarks and all. But they were cool about it. I mean, we have the same constituency.”

Same constituency? In 2004, in one of many parties tied to the Republican Convention, the GOP’s Tennessee delegation held a tribute to Cash, as liberal bloggers protested. Cash was a Hollywood fave, and in the early 70s was known as “the liberal voice” of country music, what with his opposition to the Vietnam war and campaigns for the civil rights of prisoners and Native Americans.

After that, Cash’s politics are difficult to discern. He had a Billy Graham-like friendliness with most of the Presidents, especially Carter, to whom his wife June Carter Cash was a cousin. In his autobiography, published around the time of his death in 2003, Cash praises Nixon (above), Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton — but he didn’t vote for Nixon, Reagan or Clinton. He didn’t write anything about Bush II in the book, but he does make mention of Hillary Clinton.

He writes about singing at a New York function where Hillary was present. “I was a small gathering at which they asked me for a few songs and I obliged, singing “Tennessee Stud,” and some funny songs and spiritual songs and telling stories about Arkansas. That felt good, but I think Hillary was a little uncomfortable when I sang ‘The Beast in Me,’ Nick Lowe’s dark little acknowledgment of how far peoiple like he and I can get, but other than that it was a fine evening, and it reminded me that I’ve always liked her. I don’t care what she did in Arkansas. I like her husband, too, even if I’ve never voted for him. Come to think of it, I didn’t vote for Nixon, either. Nor Ronald Reagan.”

Update: In addition to the oddity of linking Edwards to Cash, blogger William Beutler notes that in a song Cash once sang, “The One on the Right is on the Left,” he cautioned about singers getting too political:

Now this should be a lesson if you plan to start a folk group
Don’t go mixin’ politics with the folk songs of our land
Just work on harmony and diction
Play your banjo well
And if you have political convictions keep them to yourself

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