Yet even if Obama is a natural and immediately grasps how Washington works, there is something troubling about the whole concept of a presidential spouse with a multimillion-dollar staff.

Being the spouse of the president didn’t always get you a seat at the policy table. It wasn’t until the Carter years that first ladies got taxpayer-financed staffing. It has become so embedded in our system that it seems almost natural today. But constitutionally, the first spouse has no more right to wield power than does the spouse of the chief justice…

Over time, we have adopted a “serial monarchy” in which the family — and particularly the spouse — of the president has the potential for enormous influence. Ironically, in European democracies, where monarchies were once powerful, spouses of leaders are not given formal power over policies…

For now, the White House knows that Obama is an extraordinarily popular voice for the president’s policies. It would be foolish not to deploy her, now and on the campaign trail in 2012. We can only hope that she avoids a HillaryCare fiasco with her policy input.