President Clinton, bless his pea-picking heart, plans to nominate a country music fan to a position of great influence in the cultural arena. The White House recently announced that Clinton intends to nominate William “Bill” J. Ivey to become the new chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Ivey, 53, is the long-time director of the Country Music Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that operates the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, home of the Grand Ole Opry, Opryland, and Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, a legendary watering hole. If Ivey is confirmed by the Senate, it means the National Endowment for the Arts will be headed by a country music fan who plays the guitar. A git-tar picker, in other words. Hmmm. The president really should have named his dog Bubba instead of Buddy. As a country music fan from way back, I sure hope Bill Ivey gets the job and that it will inspire Clinton to surround himself with country music singers during the waning days of his administration. Before brother Clinton returns down home to Arkansas, he has an opportunity to show the American people that country music stars can do more than sing sad songs about lonesome highways, jukeboxes, prison, honky-tonks, Mama’s hungry eyes, drinking and cheating. The president can do this by appointing some country singers to some key positions in his lame-duck administration. Here are a few possible positions: – Secretary of Labor, Johnny Paycheck: “At a time when millions of American workers are fearful of losing their jobs, Johnny Paycheck’s attitude toward work, as expressed in his ever-popular song, ‘Take This Job and Shove It,’ makes him the ideal person to head the Labor Department.” – Secretary of State, Merle Haggard: “Our national security is threatened by Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, a tyrant who only understands force. Merle Haggard is the perfect secretary of state to talk tough with Saddam, plus any other tyrant who threatens our way of life. The Hag takes no crap, and his patriotism was revealed years ago when he sang, ‘When you’re running down our country, hoss, you’re walking on the fightin’ side of me.’ ” – Secretary of the Treasury, Johnny Cash. “Not only does Johnny Cash have a last name that makes him eminently qualified to run the Treasury Department, he also is living proof that a country singer can sell millions of records and make a ton of cash without being able to sing a lick.” – Secretary of Education, Waylon Jennings: “It may seem odd to nominate a high school dropout and self-proclaimed ‘outlaw’ to head Education, but Waylon is staunchly pro-education, as is evident in the advice he has been giving to America’s mothers for years. That sound advice is: ‘Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.’ ” – Secretary of Energy, Dolly Parton: “Our Energy Department needs an energetic leader and Dolly is energetic, if nothing else. She can get more done working 9 to 5 than most folks can in 24 hours.” – Central Intelligence Agency Director, George Jones: “Today’s CIA must be led by someone with a keen knowledge of all the sophisticated, high-tech communications tools needed to outwit our enemies’ spies. George is up to date on technology’s cutting edge, and the proof is in the lyrics of his song, ‘High-Tech Redneck.’ Besides, any CIA director with ‘Possum’ for a nickname should be able to spot a mole a mile away.” Steve Clark is a member of the National Columnists Group, a syndicate of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.