What does it mean to be "all cage, no bird"? Maureen Dowd must know, because she's used the phrase twice in the last year -- both times in columns about the differences between Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin.
From "Sarah Grabs The Convenience Grab bag From Hillary," July 29, 2009:
Sarah [Palin] should follow her own advice to Hillary [Clinton] and work harder to be capable. Until then, she's all cage, no bird.
From "Clash of the Titans," September 6, 2008, speaking in the mock voice of Hillary Clinton as she debates a mock Sarah Palin:
CLINTON: I do give you and John credit, Sarah, for following my blueprint to reveal Obama as all cage, no bird.
UPDATE: The proprietor of the InstaPutz blog points out that Dowd also used the "all cage, no bird" phrase in an "Editor's Letter" written in the pseudo-voice of John F. Kennedy Jr., called "Letter from The Hunk" and published in the NYT on August 13, 1997:
I know my last editor's letter, swiping at my loser cousins and showing off my incredibly defined torso, made waves. It was my first venture into serious commentary. And now everyone is gathering, like urchins at a hanging, to wonder if I'm all cage, no bird.
Dowd, who throws around titles and phrases the way the rest of us breathe, also referenced Palin this morning as "the tough embodiment of Diana the Huntress." Dowd never used that allusion before to describe Palin; the reference last appeared under Dowd's byline on December 4, 1994, in a quotation from a Newt Gingrich novel.
Vanity Fair columnist James Wolcott appears to have been the first to attach it to Palin, nearly a year ago. In a blog post on September 28, 2008, Wolcott called Palin "Diana the Huntress in a red power suit."