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If Obama is the point guard, who is the center? Pelosi? Reid?

October 12, 2010 |  3:15 pm

ObamalakerThe young man who took the world by storm just six years ago at the DNC convention is now the president of the United States. He is going back to his strengths by speaking to large and small groups to spread his message and to rebound from the negative perceptions that Americans have of their federal representatives. Indeed, government has become the new F-word.

President Obama spoke at the quaint digs of former NBA All-Star Alonzo Mourning last night, more specifically, in the backyard of one of the most expensive homes in Florida. Because of the setting, the president used many sports and car analogies that he's been toting around.

A few analogies are old, but this administration does tout recycling... Like this one about the Republican Party being the "Party of No."

Basically they said no to everything. If I said that the ocean was blue, they’d say no. If I said there were fish in the sea, they’d say no. Their attitude was, if Obama fails then we win. 

Now, I couldn't play that game because my responsibility was to make sure that even when the decisions were tough we took the decisions that were required to get us on the right track. And we have now done that. But moving forward, I can only succeed if I've got help.

At this point he smoothly segued into the idea of teamwork, which you can embrace after the jump...

The president continued:

There’s a reason why Dwyane is really excited to have Chris Bosh and LeBron James -- because he remembers the last time he won the championship, he had a guy named Shaq running around. Now Shaq is going to try to stop you this time.  But he remembers what it was like to have teammates. As great as Magic was, he couldn't do it without Worthy and Jabbar and all those tremendous stars from Showtime.

Well, the same is true in politics. I'm pretty good -- (laughter) -- I'm a pretty good point guard, but I can't do it on my own. (Applause.) If I don't have Ron there, if I don't have a Debbie there, doing the hard work each and every day to move this country’s agenda forward, we are not going to succeed. 

I mean, there are folks right now in Washington, some of the pundits who actually say, you know, Obama might be better off with what happened with Clinton -- you lose the House, you lose the Senate -- or you lose some seats, and then you can pivot because the Republicans finally have to take responsibility. That may be short-term political thinking in the minds of pundits; that's not how I think because I'm thinking about how do I move the country forward. 

Obamahoops Although the sentiment is appreciated, unfortunately the analogy is possibly misplaced. The main goal a point guard has is to dish the ball to the center (or one of the bigger players) and get an assist when the team scores. Since the president cannot actually create legislature, he needs to pass his agenda to his teammates. Most would think that would be the Senate majority leader.

But since Harry Reid is in dire straits himself right now, having a tough chance even keeping his job, wouldn't it be wiser for the president to avoid such analogies since Reid's popularity problems can be tracked back to Obama's failures in the same way the center suffers when his point guards don't lead them properly in such plays as the pick-and-roll?

Finally, Obama moved to his Slurpee analogy: an image that's easy to paint and easier to understand. It may be his strongest argument when tied together with the "Party of No" theme.

So as I’ve traveled the country I’ve been using this analogy -- essentially the other side drove the car into the ditch. And me and Ron and the rest of the outstanding Democrats here, we all climbed down into that ditch.  It was muddy down there, and hot. We had to put on boots. There were bugs. But we started pushing -- pushing that car out of the ditch. Every once in a while, we’d look up and the Republicans would be standing there fanning themselves, sipping on Slurpees, looking all comfortable. (Laughter.)

We’d say, why don't you come down and help? No, that's all right, but you all aren’t pushing fast enough. You’re not pushing the right way.

And even though we did not get any help, we kept on pushing, until finally we got that car up on level ground. Now, it’s a little banged up, needs some body work, needs a tune-up, but we are pointing in the right direction and we are ready to move forward again.

And suddenly we get this tap on our shoulders. We look back, and it’s the Republicans.  And they're saying, we want the keys back. You can’t have the keys back. You don't know how to drive. (Laughter and applause.) Now, if you want to ride, you can ride in the backseat. (Applause.) But we’re not going to give you -- (laughter) -- give you the wheel.  (Laughter.)

Unfortunately Obama returned to the hoops metaphors for his conclusion.

You know, this is just the first quarter. And we’ve put up a lot of points, under very adverse circumstances. But we’ve got three more quarters to play. And if suddenly everybody is acting like, well, that's it, I’m tired, we’ll lose. And when I say “we,” I mean the country will lose. One of the marks of a champion is not just talent, it’s not just skill -- it’s heart. It’s perseverance. Are you willing to stick with something until it’s finished?

The project of bringing about change so that this country is more just and more prosperous, and we are growing faster, and we can compete in the global stage, and our young people are prepared for the 21st century -- that project is not done.  And it is hard.  But we need heart. We need character. And I believe that's what we’ve got. I believe in this team. I hope you believe in it, too. If you do, then I promise you that not only are we going to win this election, we are going to restore the American dream for every American. 

Back when Obama was running for president people were in awe of his mastery of the podium. Perhaps they were comparing him to the administration that was currently in office. Now that that regime is long gone, it will be interesting to see how he adjusts in the second half of this "game." Will he trim the fat of his speeches and stay on message and speak from a place of strength, or will he continue to play at the relatively unispired level of his competition? 

Like all great teams know, halftime is when you make your adjustments and learn from the mistakes you made in the first half. Judging from this backyard speech, this may be a long second half indeed.

-- Tony Pierce

Top photo: Obama holds a Lakers jersey with his name on it. Credit: Michael Reynolds / EPA

Second photo: Obama plays basketball with White House staffers while on vacation in Martha's Vineyard. Pete Souza / White House