In the comments, Kevin said:
That's not what a point man is. A point man is the soldier in a patrol who walks up front and is the first to walk into the minefield or to get shot in the face. While most ambushers will skip the point man and wait till the main body of the patrol comes into its sights, that doesn't do much to lessen the point man's peril.I looked up "point man" in the (unlinkable) OED and discovered that the original meaning of "point man" had to do not with soldiers but cowboys: "A person who rides at the head of a herd of cattle."
1903 A. Adams Log of Cowboy iii. 28 Two riders, known as point men rode out and well back from the lead cattle.The earliest use to refer to a soldier — specifically "A soldier positioned at the head of a patrol" — came in 1944, in the Army weekly called "Yank": "The Jap point man was on the scene before any camouflaging could be done."
Next in time is the sports usage, referring to "A player who (habitually) plays in a (particular) attacking position during offensive manoeuvres," with the earliest usage in 1951. A typical recent use is, from 2004: "The umbrella focuses on moving a point man to the center of the blue line with the other point man moving closer to the goal."
Then there's the "extended use," which is the only one relevant to Gene Sperling, meaning "a person (esp. a man) having an important and usually public position at the forefront of an activity or endeavour on behalf of an organization, political party, etc." Example from 1978, from the Guardian: "Although Carter started his term as no friend of Kennedy,..Kennedy has, ironically, become Carter's point man in the senate."
So I'd say it was fine for Gregory to call Sperling "Obama's economic point man." To say "He's the 'point man,' on the show to give the Administration's points" is to wisecrack — really to say that your defender is kind of a hack.