Michelle! OMG, Michelle!

Howie Kurtz reports on the Michelle-O-mania currently captivating the American media:

President Obama may be grappling with a global economic crisis and Russian arms control, but his wife has clearly stolen the show.

“She’s a real breath of fresh air,” CBS anchor Katie Couric said yesterday by phone from London. “I think Michelle Obama is very modern, very of-the-moment, and people want to get to know her better. She reaches out. She’s a beautiful woman, stylish without being pretentious.”

Oh, and have we mentioned her wardrobe? An MSNBC headline Wednesday morning announced: “Mrs. Obama Wearing a J.Crew Ensemble for First Events Today.”

The Michelle gush-a-thon is growing louder by the day. To be sure, she is a fascinating first lady with a 76 percent approval rating in this week’s Washington Post-ABC News poll. And presidents’ wives tend to get softer coverage, at least when they’re not put in charge of health-care reform. If they’re dealing with swing sets and china, instead of swing districts and China, they generally hover above the fray.

But this first lady has generated endless media chatter about everything from her sleeveless dresses to her vegetable garden, which landed on the front page of the New York Times. And she has a disarming candor, telling the Times that she doesn’t like her husband questioning her about her clothes: “It’s like, Why don’t you mind your own business? Solve world hunger. Get out of my closet.”

But this week’s coverage has an over-the-top feel. If we didn’t know Obama flew abroad on Air Force One, we might suspect she had walked across the Atlantic. The European trip has boosted her to an even more rarefied zone, with pundits debating whether she was wrong to have breached protocol by throwing an arm lightly around Queen Elizabeth II.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.