If I had to pick a salesman to sell ice to eskimos, I would probably select Barack Obama. He's that good. So when his Administration needs to sell its enormous agenda to the public, President Obama is almost always the person doing the selling.
I get it. If you have Michael Jordan on your team, you give him the ball at the end of the game. He's the go-to guy. But it can't be all-Barack, all the time. That's what MSNBC is for.
President Obama has tried to use other members of the Administration to sell his plans, but no one is on a par with the President. Secretary Geithner has been tutored in the art of public speaking, and he's become the better for it. But his first try at selling an agenda item resulted in a steep stock market decline.
There are certainly qualified spokespeople in the Administration. Secretary of State Clinton and Vice President Biden to name two. But the Administration has decided to solely rely on its number one guy.
While the policies of the Administration have the approval of about half the country, the President's popularity rates significantly higher than his plans. Because of his poll numbers, the Administration is riding the Obama wave, much as ABC did many years ago with "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," by putting it on the air all the time. Until people got sick of it, and the ratings for the show sank.
What happens if the President's approval rating diminishes? Who will sell the agenda then? The economy will probably not improve in a way that we feel for a couple of years. It's possible that the President will suffer some hits for this. The deteriorating situation in Pakistan also threatens approval ratings here. As the Bush years recede from our minds with time and therapy, Obama will only be compared to our expectations for him. If people feel that he's failing to meet their expectations, will other members of the Administration help sell the agenda, even though they'd have little experience doing it?
The Administration has to know that no one will ever be Obama, just as no one on Chicago was ever Michael Jordan. But Jordan did not always take the shots. At the outset of games, the multi-title winning Bulls fed the big man, Bill Cartwright, to get him involved in the game and to keep the opposition from ganging up on Jordan. And at the end of the game, Jordan occasionally passed off to the open man, such as in Game Six of the 1993 Finals, when Jordan had the ball with about four seconds to go, and he passed off to John Paxson, who sank the big, title winning shot.
Eventually, your teammates need the ball. You have to let them go out there and, while the stakes for the country are now enormous, they have to fail or succeed on their own. Geithner is a much better speaker than he was just a couple of months ago. He would never have improved so much if he hadn't had a poor first outing.
President Obama may maintain a high popularity for a very long time. But he may not. And the Administration has to prepare in case he isn't as popular as he is now. Put some other spokespeople out there. Let's see what they can do.