Celebrating the First Lady, and the First Daughters Too

Reporter Rachel Swarns, on the Times' Michelle Obama suck-up beat, filed "School Is Out but Education Doesn't Stop for the Obama Daughters This Summer" on Sunday. Stop the presses!

Times Watch has often complained about the non-news nature of Swarns' first lady puff pieces, and this article unusually featured actual critics: "Still, not everyone is cheering the Obamas on." Swarns included criticism of Obama from Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa and a Philadelphia Daily News columnist for touring the world while Americans struggled economically. Harvard professor Charles Ogletree was trotted out, again, to defend the Obamas, but at least Swarns this time identified Ogletreeas a "close friend" of the couple.

Most of the article, however, ran along the usual laudatory lines:

The girls have toured the Eiffel Tower and ogled the stone majesties of the Pantheon. They have swooned over the Jonas Brothers, giggled over wax likenesses of their parents and romped with friends at Camp David, all in the span of two blissfully school-free months.

Welcome toSashaandMaliaObama's fabulous summer vacation, a hodgepodge of foreign travel, concerts, birthday parties and just plain fun carefully organized by the president and first lady. (The first lady has dubbed it Camp Obama.)

ButPresident Obamaand his wife,Michelle, have also tried to ensure that this first summer in the White House is about more than lighthearted fare. They have incorporated history lessons, community service and healthy eating and exercise into their daughters' time off, offering yet another glimpse of the parenting style behind the walls at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

But don't think the First Family is raising a couple of spoiled brats, oh no:

The Obamas are sticklers for emphasizing structure and discipline in their child rearing. Summertime, they have made clear, provides no respite from the rules.

"The television and the computers are off all day until after dinner and right before bedtime," Mrs. Obama said during a June visit to San Francisco as she described her daughters' summer routine. "Bedtime is early."

(This is no easy task, though, even in the Obama household. Mrs. Obama acknowledged last month that her girls were often glued to their computers: "What would we do without our laptops? My kids would die. They wouldn't make it through the summer.")