Michelle Obama Graces Covers of Glamour, NYT Magazine

With so much exposure, how effective can the first lady be?

October 29, 2009, 7:16 AM

Oct. 29, 2009— -- President Obama may be the most public baseball fan in the first family, but it was first lady Michelle Obama who was on the field before Game One of the World Series, honoring America's veterans.

With flashbulbs popping, the first lady and the vice president's wife, Dr. Jill Biden, escorted Yankees legend Yogi Berra onto the field at Yankee Stadium as part of the pre-game ceremonies paying tribute to the nation's veterans.

Today at the White House, Michelle Obama will be joined by local school students who will help her harvest her White House garden, one of her many healthy-living events recently.

Despite the often playful atmosphere at these events (hula-hooping last week, getting down and dirty earlier this year in the garden), the first lady is serious about her role and even plans to become her husband's point person on childhood obesity.

That's just one of many revelations in a joint interview with Jodi Kantor of the New York Times Magazine, focusing on the Obama's marriage.

In the article, published online yesterday and on newsstands this Sunday, the first lady divulged that "The bumps happen to everybody all the time, and they are continuous."

The president said he values that he and Michelle's 17-year marriage is "apart from a lot of the silliness of Washington, and Michelle is not part of that silliness."

Michelle Obama is also a solid part of the president's decision making. The president has said she reminds him what people outside of Washington think, his own "one-person poll."

Aides say the president quotes the first lady in Oval Office meetings.

The New York Times is not the only magazine cover featuring the Obamas right now. Michelle Obama is also featured in the December issue of Glamour Magazine.

In that article for the women's fashion and lifestyle magazine, she gives tips on dressing and dating.

"I'm not sure if I had been her advisor I would have said for her to do the Glamour cover…because it might begin to trivialize her and what her role is," said the Washington Post's Sally Quinn, a longtime Beltway culture watcher.

Quinn said that Mrs. Obama is still figuring out exactly what her role will be and transitioning in to her new life in the White House.

"This is obviously a very intelligent and educated and high achieving woman and I suspect that at some point she is going to decide that she will concentrate on one particular issue, and go for it," she said.

"But I think right now the best thing she can be, is be in the background, appear to be a supportive mother and wife and not garner any particular attention that might attract criticism of him."

Is Michelle Obama Overexposed?

With so much exposure, how much can the first lady really accomplish?

In a column for Newsweek last week, Allison Samuels called on her to do more with her high-profile, influential position.

She wrote that Michelle Obama has "mostly played it safe, dabbling in traditional East Wing issues — much like the first ladies before her -- without yet gaining much traction on any particular front."

In the 10 months she has lived in the White House, the first lady has focused on promoting healthy living and eating, opening up the White House to regular Americans, showcasing American music, art and culture and reaching out to federal government workers through visits to departments and agencies.

"It's a delicate dance, she has to balance it, obviously. She can't be on the cover of every magazine and then not be on the forefront talking about the serious issues," said Samuels.

It's a fine line that Michelle Obama's still learning to walk.

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