If you're thinking of using the Obama girls to make your point, think again. Sasha and Malia are strictly off-limits.
Ronda Kaysen: Last week, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that advocates for healthy food in school cafeterias found itself in hot water with the White House when it used the Obama girls in an advertising campaign. The posters, which appeared in D.C. subway stations, pictured an 8-year-old girl with a thought bubble that read, "President Obama's daughters get healthy school lunches. Why don't I?"
The answer they got had nothing to do with school lunches and a lot to do with protecting the First Daughters. A day after the posters went up, the organization, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, got a phone call from White House lawyers.
"But they called and said: Please take those down, you can't mention the kids and so forth ... They felt that mentioning the president's children was off-limits. They said [they're] not going to allow the use of their daughters as leverage."
Despite the call and a warning that the White House might sue the organization to remove the posters, Barnard's group kept the posters up anyway.
In the eyes of political experts, this isn't a smart move on the Physicians Committee's part.
"The children of the president are always off-limits. Always. No exceptions," Frank Luntz, a Republican political consultant, told the Post. "No ifs, ands or buts. And while it may draw short-term attention to the issue, the White House will hate the organization for it. And I assure you they will be punished. You don't mess with the president's children. It's an unwritten rule."
But Barnard, whose group would like to see vegetarian and vegan lunch options available at public schools, doesn't think the message is coming from Barack and Michelle, he thinks it's a case of nervous handlers wringing their hands.
"I was not about to pull the ads," said Barnard. "They're important, and they're good, and they raise the issue, speaking for kids in America. And I'm not about to have them shut me up because they're nervous."
After all, Michelle has made a point to advocate for healthy food. The soup kitchen for whom she serves food offers locally grown fruits and vegetables, and the Obamas famously planted a "victory garden" this spring. Of course, this is the same Michelle who pitched a fit when Ty toys used her daughters' names for a new line of dolls.
Barnard might be making his point -- and getting some press attention while he does it -- but if he makes enemies of an administration that's sympathetic to his cause, it hardly helps his case. This White House might sign onto his idea and support legislation for healthy school lunches, but if they think he's exploited their kids to help someone else's, that's not going to fly well. When this is all said and done, Barnard might find himself eating his words.
Moms, what do you think: are the Obama girls off-limits, even when the cause is one the family supports?
|Ronda Kaysen is a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, BusinessWeek.com, Architectural Record, Huffington Post, New York Observer and AM New York. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.|