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A Role for Oprah in the Obama Administration?

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Aside from the selection of the family pet, three other questions are consistently asked about the incoming administration of President-elect Barak Obama. First, how can he possibly meet the expectations of those who voted for him? Second, will he be a competent President? Third, what appointment will he give to Lady O, Oprah Winfrey? Many speculate that she will given an Ambassadorship.

The most important role that Winfrey can play during the first 12 months of the Obama Administration will be to maintain her current position, the queen of daytime television.

Given the enormity of the challenges facing the incoming administration plus the high expectation of voters, especially first time and young voters, it will be critical for the President and his team to manage expectations while maintaining the support of these crucial groups.

Who else besides Oprah has the profile and platform to reach millions of viewers domestically and globally every day? Not to mention, her access to the best and most knowledgeable experts who can speak clearly to the issues. We cannot ignore the potential impact that Winfrey can and will likely have in helping the incoming administration communicate with Americans and the world.

Let's not forget that the fastest way to achieve bestseller status for any author is to be selected by Oprah's book club. She has succeeded in getting millions of Americans to read. Now she will attempt to transform many of her viewers into political junkies. Unlike other political junkies, they will not have to troll websites on a daily basis or get up on Sunday mornings to channel surf between Meet the Press, This Week, Face the Nation, Fox News Sunday and the Chris Matthews Show.

Instead, they will have Oprah providing pithy and insightful information from the best crop of experts, pundits and insiders. Through her guests, Winfrey will remove much of the spin that turns many people off politics while informing her viewers about the issues, the challenges, and more importantly, what to expect and their personal responsibilities as Americans. Oprah's platform will be critical in mobilizing public support for some of Obama's more ambitious legislative campaign promises.

She will be the surrogate Press Secretary to the President.

So to answer the first question: no, Obama cannot possibly live up to the expectations of new and young voters who are more likely to expect quick and significant policy shifts to complex legislative and regulatory issues. In the short term, they will have to be satisfied with the symbolism of his victory and their role in bringing it about. Over the longer- term they will require reinforcements that the change they voted for was more than skin deep, but substantive and real.

Expect the Obama team to continue using leading edge technology to try to maintain the interest and support of his cadre of young voters. Oprah will augment their outreach efforts, especially with women and older voters through her myriad of communication mediums.

Obama will he be a competent President. American voters got it right on November 4th. His campaign from start to end was disciplined and dignified. During the turbulence that rocked the financial markets in September, he projected confidence and stability. The road ahead will not be an easy one, far from it. But the pragmatism he demonstrated during the campaign will anchor his Presidential management style.

The challenges facing the incoming administration are numerous and complex. On the domestic front, he must navigate America out of the worst financial crisis in seventy years and the weakest economy in twenty-five years. On the international stage, America is fighting two wars. He must show leadership to restore a fragile global financial system, weak international institutions, manage issues relating to the rising economic powerhouses in China and India, Iran's nuclear ambitions and a restive Russia. He must also restrain the protectionist impulse of Democrats in the House and the Senate.

President-elect Obama generated enormous good will domestically and abroad during his march to the White House. The administration must capitalize on the honeymoon period over the short term and set the tone to be able to take action on some of the thornier issues while mitigating expectations of his supporters for quick fixes. He has told us that fixing the U.S. economy is his number one priority -- but what will be priorities two and three?

During the marathon Primary process against the formidable Clinton machinery and later against John McCain during the Presidential race, Obama demonstrated an uncanny ability to capture the mood of Americans and articulate it for them.

As President he will need a little help from his friends. Expect Oprah to take a leading role in helping Americans understand why President Obama has not fixed Medicare, stopped foreclosures, restored the American education system, or reduced dependence on fossil fuels within the first six months of moving into the White House.