Kathleen Parker

Is Hillary Clinton's inevitability less inevitable?

The growing consensus seems to be that the former first lady's ascendancy as first woman president of the U.S. is less assured than previously thought, thanks in large part to the junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama.

This is polite talk from the emperor's court. The naked truth is, Hillary has a bigger problem than Obama. Anyone who has heard her speak knows what it is, so we may as well talk about it.

That voice.

Every time Hillary opens her mouth, Americans are reminded of two things: (1) she's not Bill, and (2) she's as tone-deaf in the presence of human beings as she was singing ``The Star-Spangled Banner" in Iowa recently.

Until that moment, it was not known that anyone could sing that badly. To her credit, Hillary has since poked fun at herself, offering to step away from the microphone, for example, when a group was about to sing ``Happy Birthday.''

No one can help the voice they're born with -- much. But they can learn to adjust the volume, and to take the temperature of a room before speaking. And especially, to avoid faking a local accent, pretending to be something they're not. Southern, for instance.

In Selma, Ala., last weekend at the "Bloody Sunday" commemoration, Hillary auditioned for a dual role -- not just Southerner, but Southern preacher in the style of a Martin Luther King Jr.

That dry rustling you hear is the sound of millions of people cringing.

It was clear that Hillary was trying to imitate the oratorical style of her black predecessors to the pulpit -- something no white person should ever attempt. But what she must have imagined sounded like passion was to mere mortals the screech of an angry woman.

Her audience, nevertheless, was polite and affirming (Southerners are like that), even as she turned on the worst fake accent since Kevin Costner played Robin Hood. Shouting the words from a gospel hymn, Clinton was so off-key that anyone tuning in would have assumed it was a joke -- a parody of a politician speaking in native tongues, Granny Clampett auditioning on "American Idol."

"I DON'T FEEL NO WAYS TIRED," she said with the robotic twang of a computer generated Southerner. "I COME TOO FARRRR FRUM WHERE I STARTED FRUM. NOBODY TOLD ME THAT THE ROAD WOULD BE EASY."

Somewhere deep in the brains of every man listening was a little lizard shouting: Somebody hit the mute button, for God's sake, hit the mute!


Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
 
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