Kathleen Parker

Trying to appeal to the Second Amendment crowd, she remembers learning to shoot with her daddy and criticizes Obama with a mailing that features a type of gun that experts say does not exist. Trying to establish her regular-guy bona fides in Crown Point, Ind., she drinks with two fists, sipping a beer followed by a shot of Crown Royal.

You can hardly get her out of a pickup truck these days. Widely circulated photos show Clinton commuting to work with a sheet metal worker in his white pickup, and giving a speech from the back of a red pickup.

No gun racks or Confederate flag stickers -- risky territory for faux bubbas like the Clintons -- but religious symbolism is fair game. In Pennsylvania, where Clinton successfully courted the Catholic vote, she wore a saints bracelet easily recognizable to Catholics.

Impressive, if appalling. But most impressive of all has been Clinton's metamorphosis into a man. She isn't only the alpha dog. She's Cujo.

Should Clinton continue her run, Americans have a feast before them as primaries remain in such manly states as Montana and South Dakota.

Think of the possibilities: Clinton recalling her family heritage as big-game hunters. Her great, great, great uncle Buffalo Bill? Or perhaps she might discover DNA linked to Crazy Horse. In Montana, Hillary astride a horse smoking a Marlboro is an irresistible, if improbable, image. But some dust-kickers and a little chaw might be in the cards.

Symbolism, gesture and style aren't everything in politics, but they're plenty, especially after more than a year of rhetoric and meaningless stats. The conscious mind can only absorb so much information, and public speakers know that what matters most is the impression they make, not the words they say.

Clinton has successfully established herself as the man in charge while the lithe and willowy Obama seems too elegant for the trenches. But even cyborgs are imperfect.

The T-1000 could duplicate appearances and voices, but he couldn't capture the soul of the human being. Eventually, people realized something wasn't quite right.

Often, alas, too late.

Kathleen Parker

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