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Sarah Palin Opposed to First Lady's Anti-Obesity Campaign

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Guest blogger Kate Tuttle: Michelle Obama, following in established First Lady footsteps, has adopted a couple of issues to focus on as an advocate during her husband's time in office. For both Laura and Barbara Bush, the issues were education and literacy; for Hillary Clinton, it was women and children's health. In other words, being married to the President and working on the behalf of relatively uncontroversial feel-good issues just kind of go together. So there's nothing really shocking about Michelle Obama planting a vegetable garden at the White House, going on "Sesame Street" to talk about healthy eating with Elmo or promoting her "Let's Move!" campaign against childhood obesity. Except to Sarah Palin.

Sarah Palin
On Laura Ingraham's radio show last week, the former Republican Vice Presidential candidate slammed Michelle Obama's anti-obesity program, warning that it smacks of government intrusion into parental decisions over how to feed and raise children.

A quote: "Take her anti-obesity thing that she is on. She is on this kick, right. What she is telling us is she cannot trust parents to make decisions for their own children, for their own families in what we should eat. And I know I'm going to be again criticized for bringing this up, but instead of a government thinking that they need to take over and make decisions for us according to some politician or politician's wife priorities, just leave us alone, get off our back and allow us as individuals to exercise our own God-given rights to make our own decisions and then our country gets back on the right track."

Now, I've read the stuff on the Let's Move website (which has sections on food and nutrition, exercise and other health-related topics). I'm not seeing any kind of massive government takeover of the food industry, and certainly not of individual families' kitchens. What I do see is middle-of-the-road, common-sense advice and information for parents, as well as some policy recommendations for better product package information (so that, for instance, junk food cannot hide its true caloric and sodium loads by misleading consumers about the size of a "portion") and a call for partnerships with pediatricians so that children's doctors get more involved in supporting families to raise healthier kids. Nobody's advocating taking away parental authority over kids, although I have to admit, there are times when I wish I could intervene whenever I see a family of supersized kids whose parents clearly are contributing to their lifelong poor health.

Another kid-focused political food fight is in the works, this one on Capitol Hill, where Congress is prepared to vote this week on a bill authorizing an expansion of eligibility for free and reduced school lunches -- particularly needed in today's economy, where an estimated 20 percent of children (35 percent of black children) are living at or below the poverty line. (Those figures are from 2008, so they are certainly understated.) The bill also sets new guidelines in place to ensure that school lunches are nutritionally sound. Given that many children receive inadequate meals at home, making sure that what they get at school is good for them seems to be eminently sound public policy. Even the relatively conservative FOXNews organization argues that school lunch programs are essential to helping break the cycle of poverty.

Palin's just using this issue to make political hay -- and I think this one might backfire on her. If there's one thing everybody agrees on, it's that our kids deserve the best lives we can prepare them for. As divided as our country is right now, it's hard to picture anybody but the most extreme Palin fan really buying her argument. As this piece in the Huffington Post makes clear, it may be poor politics for Palin to attack Michelle Obama, who remains more popular than her husband (a common situation for First Ladies), and especially for a program that aims to help children's health, an issue with which it is difficult to ... well, take issue. But Palin works in mysterious ways.

I'm eager to see where she takes this -- and whether or not anyone will follow.


next: Putting Baby on Auto-Soothe
111 comments so far | Post a comment now
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annon December 10, 2010, 3:56 PM

Palin will say and do anything to stay in the news. McCain should be kicked for opening up pandoras box and letting that woman out,now look what we have to put up with. Everyone can “see” we are an obese society. Pailn should spend more time teaching her own children, like Bristol, to not eat anything that has High Frutose Corn Syrup in it and get some exercise before she is part of the obese group. Our government should insist on the FDA from using HFCS in any of our foods. Look what it’s done to our country. 65% of our population is obese. You go M. Obama, your on the right track, but more needs to be done and it needs to start with our schools. We need better lunches, exercise programs and most of all a good education! We’re not only becoming fat, now we are lacking in education. Fat and dumb, what a future!!!!!!

Cathy December 12, 2010, 1:46 PM

I am surprised how many of you don’t realize that Mrs. Obama cannot take on all aspects of the obesity problem. She can’t very well attack the schools, then people like Sarah would be right. That would be the government taking over in our schools. The obestiy program is geared towards the children and trying to get them to make proper choices when the parents aren’t around! Stop looking for things to argue against. Don’t think Lady Bird caught flack because she wanted flowers planted all over America!

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Clt December 14, 2010, 10:47 AM

Palin is for anything the Obama’s are against and against anything they are for. I never heard of a more negative person in my life. Nothing wrong with kids getting the message to eat right and exercise. I was in elementary school in the 70’s and we learned about the “food pyramid” then. I think what the first lady is doing is great and should be a harmless issue. Palin is a 1/2 term governor who quit that job, why should her criticism of the first lady or president be treated like big news?

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Anonymous December 20, 2010, 10:09 PM

I really think the government has gone crazy. As a parent I don’t understand how the first lady can blame the children’s obesity on us. When my kids are at school most of the day and they don’t get up much and move their bodies. They are always sitting down at their desk doing work work work. For some reason the school teachings have changed and the children have to learn eeverything I mean everything before they are in middle school. Yes I understand that there are a lot of children that are over weight. And yes there are parents that don’t watch or care what their children are eating but the first lady can not make it sound like it is all of us. I think there needs to be more physical activity in the school and stop trying to push so much on them and let them be kids.


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