I have a friend who tells new hires in the workplace about her experience as a retail sales clerk. She tells a story about how a lot of people have as their main retail experience working at Disney World selling Mickey Mouse merchandise. Their primary job is to make sure the doors are open and the product is on the shelf. The Mouse sells itself.

She compares that to her first retail job at Britches, where for some inexplicable reason the logo is a warthog. Now, that was something you had to work at to sell. Don’t get me wrong. They sold quality apparel. Just not an immediately compelling mascot. Your job was to pull people in the door. Convince them they needed the clothes with the ugly mug on it. Ring them up and convince them they made a good purchase.

In real life, you have to sell a lot more Warthogs than The Mouse.

The Obama administration would do well to learn that lesson. They had a popular candidate and mainstream media backing. They won the election and have both houses of Congress. As each new challenge comes, however, we find them continuing to do the easy thing: selling the candidate. The president is an easy sell. He’s personally popular, likable and, as has been noted before, a capable public orator. But now is the time to sell the other product on the shelf.

The message machine of the administration has to do a better job of selling ideas and individual pieces of legislation. Convince Americans they want, no, need it. Make sure we are happy with the purchase and walk away happy. But this is not nearly as much fun. In fact, it is hard work.

Take, for instance, the administration’s ham-handed attempts to sell the stimulus package, in which they sent the president out to badmouth the economy and banking system — which resulted in further destabilization of the market and confidence. It also resulted in reliable liberals assailing the administration and, in return, getting attacked from the White House podium.

Or look at the White House’s rather pedestrian shots at radio host Rush Limbaugh. Whether it makes good short-term politics aside, it is unseemly coming from the White House — but is clearly a lot easier than doing the hard work that the president will actually get judged on in the long run. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said so himself.

The challenge is the administration doesn’t control the legislation. That is done by that co-equal branch of government called Congress. And Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDemocrats brace for tough election year in Nevada The Memo: Biden's horizon is clouded by doubt Fight over Biden agenda looms large over Virginia governor's race MORE (D-Nev.) — who, by the way, has an electoral challenge of his own — and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) control that process and have an agenda of their own.

Now even Warren Buffet is criticizing many of the ways the administration has gotten off message and into dangerous territory, ranging from a muddled economic message to a lack of explanation for a bank rescue, among others.

For this fledgling administration, there is a simple but less “fun” way to get back on track. Sell the Warthog, not The Mouse.