Diary - Ann Leslie

Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell don't count as "real" blacks. Their only musical skill is Condi's

I'm vox-popping on downtown Broadway about the prospect of Hillary Clinton seeking the Democratic nomination for next year's presidential election. Thanks to Mayor Bloomberg's ban on smoking in public places, I can't nip into a local bar for a quick fag, so I join a convivial group of black New Yorkers on their lunch break who are puffing like steam engines in a siding. (Uptown white Manhattanites don't smoke. Well, not nicotine.)

I suggest that Hillary, the junior senator for New York, would ban us smokers from the sidewalks as well, given a chance. There is much affectionate ribaldry among my fellow addicts about how the former first lady forbade Bill Clinton from smoking cigars in the White House - and look what he did with them instead!

They still love "Bubba", but since they can't vote for him again, they'll vote for her instead. "She's on the side of black people; she'll do us good, like Bill did."

Toni Morrison's famous dictum that Clinton was "America's first black president" has always irritated me. OK, there was a lot of moist-eyed "Ah feel yo' pain" empathy and a spot of sax playing, but Clinton never really did much for African Americans, or indeed Africans, apart from going to Africa a lot and emoting photogenically among the natives. Bob Geldof caused much bien-pensant jaw-dropping when he compared Clinton unfavourably with the despised Bush on the issue of aid to Africa. "Clinton talked the talk and did diddly squat, whereas Bush doesn't talk and does deliver." But Sir Bob isn't much of a name on the Broadway sidewalks.

Some black voters seem to have noticed that Bush's cabinet is not composed entirely of Stupid White Men. But Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell don't talk the talk or walk the walk of politically correct "victimhood", so they don't count as "real" blacks. The only known musical skill of the two is Condi's piano playing. But it's classical pieces by Dead White Men like Chopin, which apparently rules her out in the black street-cred stakes.

If "real" blacks don't play Chopin, then "real" men don't cry. Remember Ed Muskie? (Of course you don't; you're far too young.) I was there 31 years ago when Muskie, then the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, began weeping because a New Hampshire paper attacked his wife for being "emotionally unstable". What a wuss! Muskie's hopes turned to electoral toast.

And now we have another leading Democratic contender in New Hampshire "doing a Muskie". Every time I flipped news channels in my TriBeCa hotel, I'd be treated to endless reruns of the aloof and wealthy Senator John Kerry (his wife inherited a tomato ketchup fortune) suddenly blubbing at the tale of an unemployed woman who complained that she might not be able to send her two sons to college.

According to one political analyst, America "has changed and matured and we no longer equate masculinity with John Wayne". The Bush clan itself is very prone to public tears. As the first brother Jeb Bush put it: "Bush men always cry. It's a little genetic problem." But I found that Kerry's tears cut little ice among hard-bitten New Yorkers. As one wag put it: "Crying for the cameras - it's so Oprah, so 10 September." Unkind; but on the other hand, down the road from where I'm staying lies the vast pit of Ground Zero, and it's the second anniversary of the attacks. For a multimillionaire to "tear up" for the cameras over someone's worries about college fees strikes New Yorkers as a mite disproportionate.

Shock horror! Britney Spears endorses Bush! (And kisses Madonna on the lips, but that's just showbiz.) The 21-year-old ("Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision he makes") Britney always has an eye for the latest trend, and she may have noticed that it's kinda cool to be a right-wing rebel on politically correct university campuses these days. Bush's Republicans are making huge inroads into traditionally left-wing studentdom. Vietnam-era professors are deeply shocked.

So what's next for pretty Britney? Surely a punditry slot on Murdoch's Fox News Network must now beckon.