President Donald Trump speaks in an address to the nation from the Oval Office at the White House about the coronavirus Wednesday, March, 11, 2020, in Washington. (Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

Barbara Walters once famously asked Katharine Hepburn if she were a tree, what kind of tree she would be.

The question, we know now, was more memorable than the answer. (For the record, Hepburn said, "Oak.")

In case you are wondering, I'd be a Japanese maple: florid in the summer, sapped in the winter.

But nobody asked, me, right?

In years of interviewing, I've actually never popped the tree question. But that's not to say that personification doesn't have a place in journalism.

Which brings us to today's topic: If famous people were automobiles, what kind of automobiles would they be?

Specifically, I'd like to apply the automotive metaphor to modern political figures.

Here's why. My 13-year-old son and I have two favorite topics of conversation: cars and politics. He has started following the 2020 presidential race. We talk a lot about the faces he sees on television.

To help adapt the language of politics to the language of cars, I decided to assign public figures an automotive persona. I thought it would give my son and me more common ground to talk. It also might help him understand the cast of characters better.

So here goes.

* Donald Trump: Cadillac Escalade with its headlights stuck on high beam. Big, garish and impossible to ignore. Strong, loyal customer base, but resale value is yet to be determined.

* Mike Pence: Chevrolet Impala. Competent, conservative and buttoned down, but designed not to compete directly with Cadillac. Possibly poised for a trade-in.

* Mitch McConnell: Oldsmobile 98. Powerful engine. Venerable brand. But harder and harder to find parts for.

* Joe Biden: Buick Riviera sedan inherited from your grandmother. Big (smiley) grille. Slightly out of style but has comfy seats. Needs, at minimum, a new set of spark plugs.

* Michael Bloomberg: Fiat Spider. Small, feisty, but, alas, not that popular.

* Bernie Sanders: Vintage Volvo sedan. Rumpled, European vibe. Lumpy seats. Free starter car for the grandkids. Holes in the muffler.

* Mayor Pete Buttigieg: Tesla Model 3. Fast off the mark, but with limited range. Blue-state favorite. Not much of a track record, but a promising stock to own.

* Nancy Pelosi: Toyota Prius. Surprisingly durable. An acquired taste, but with longer battery life than some expected. Loved by owners, hated by critics.

* Elizabeth Warren: Subaru Outback. Practical, built for the Snow Belt. At home on college campuses. Still, no turbocharger available for emergency acceleration.

* Kamala Harris: VW van. California dreaming, but ran out of gas money.

* Amy Klobuchar: Buick Enclave. Versatile SUV who hopes to one day share a garage (read, ticket) with the Buick sedan.

Contact Mark Kennedy at or 423-757-6645.

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Mark Kennedy / Staff file photo