After filing several press-release worthy stories on first lady Michelle Obama, New York Times reporter Rachel Swarns is clearly delighted in the first lady taking a more active role in the health debate in Sunday's "First Lady Steps Into Policy Spotlight on Health Care."
She has become one of the Obama administration's most visible surrogates on health care, announcing the release of $851 million in federal financing for health clinics, calling for tougher nutritional standards in the government's school lunch program and urging Democrats to rally around the president's efforts to revamp health care.
The high-profile emissary? Not Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, or Nancy-Ann DeParle, the White House health policy adviser. It is the first lady, Michelle Obama.
"We're at a critical juncture in the debate about health care in this country," Mrs. Obama said at a clinic here in June. "The current system is economically unsustainable, and I don't have to tell any of you that. And despite having the most expensive health care system in the world, we're not necessarily healthier for it."
After several months of focusing on her family, her garden and inspiring young people, Mrs. Obama is stepping into more wonkish terrain. She is toughening her message and talking more openly about influencing public policy as she works to integrate her efforts more closely with those of policy makers in the West Wing.
Swarns also covered Mrs. Obama inspiring young people in D.C. schools back in May, where "the students welcome her with astonishment." As does Swarns, clearly.