Sarah Palin Attacks First Lady Michelle Obama’s Anti-Obesity Efforts

by Bettina Elias Siegel on November 29, 2010

A few weeks ago I reported on former Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s protest against a proposed Pennsylvania regulation that would restrict sugary treats in public schools.  Palin must have gotten some political traction (or just valuable publicity) with this gambit, because she’s once again taking an odd “anti-anti-obesity” stance in the name of “personal freedom.”

According to the Huffington Post, Palin attacked First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign on Laura Ingraham’s radio show last week.  She’s quoted as saying:

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.

Just as I’d opined that Palin’s sugar cookie stunt seemed tone deaf in an age of rising childhood obesity (and skyrocketing obesity-related health care costs), the HuffPo also questions the wisdom of taking on the First Lady over this issue:

. . . the apparent glee she takes in attacking the first lady remains surprising, at least politically. Among the deficits in public opinion that Palin suffers are pretty harsh favorability ratings among female voters. Going after the first lady (who remains relatively beloved by voters) doesn’t help that matter. Doing it over something as benign as trying to help children fight obesity seems confused.

But Palin isn’t alone in trying to make political hay out of Ms. Obama’s anti-obesity efforts.  Some time ago, I reported here about a professor who hoped to prove that he could lose weight on a diet consisting solely of junk food like Twinkies.  When the results of that study were recently released, conservative shock jock Rush Limbaugh had a field day with the story and, like Palin, took a few jibes at the First Lady:

. . . Michelle Obama’s on this big obesity kick, right?  Gotta eat healthy stuff, gotta eat the garbage that she grows in the garden, nothing but fruits and vegetables. . . . I know liberals lie, and if Michelle Obama’s gonna be out there ripping into “food desserts” and saying, “This is why people are fat,” I know it’s not true.

I confess it’s hard for me to get into the mindset that sees Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign as encroaching on personal freedom.  Absent pre-existing political animus toward the Obamas (which of course is at work here), that view seems about as rational to me as attacking former First Lady Laura Bush for “meddling in my child’s education” or Lady Bird Johnson for “thinking she can tell us what flowers to plant on our highways.”

But clearly this tactic speaks to some portion of Palin’s constituency.  The woman is nothing if not politically savvy, and I’m guessing we can expect a lot more of this sort of thing in the future.

[Ed. Note:  a nice coda to this post is this Washington Post piece from Saturday, “The New Front in the Culture Wars: Food.” More on this piece later, and thanks to writer Jenny Johnson for sending it my way.]

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

NotCinderell November 29, 2010 at 8:01 am

Don’t try to ascribe logic to the actions of the Party of No.

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Tom Sawyer November 29, 2010 at 10:35 am
Renee November 29, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Wow, Palin really is an idiot! And considering that Michelle Obama’s advice is really just to have parents be more aware of what their children are eating and doing, there isn’t any government interference to get upset about.

The Let’s Move campaign has quite obviously stayed away from legislating anything, which is why it’s not really very useful. After all, what good does it really do when you’re telling a single mom living in an unsafe neighborhood to have her kids move more while she’s out working her two jobs? Run laps in the living room?

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Karen November 29, 2010 at 5:38 pm

Wait till Sarah Palin finds out how much money our gov’t spends subsidizing corn and other industrial food crops to support the people’s need for Twinkies etc. Since she started her political career in Alaska, where I’m guessing they don’t get much in the way of farm subsidies, this fact will probably come as news to her. Someday.

Maybe the Obamas can make some headway on reducing America’s love of processed food, AND satisfying the libertarian contingent, by planning to eliminate all farm subsidies. Wow, that would be an exciting [and treacherous and completely idiotic] plan!

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NotCinderell November 30, 2010 at 9:14 am

Obama already wants to cut farm subsidies to large corporate farms. Cutting farm subsidies has always been a conservative position, but it butts up against the pro-corporate conservative agenda. When Obama proposes implementing these cuts, the fallout could be very interesting.

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jenna Food w/ Kid Appeal November 30, 2010 at 9:35 am

Palin said: “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.”

No Sarah. You are confused on who Michelle Obama does not trust. What Michelle is telling us is that parents can not trust food industry, manufacturers and labels to made decisions on what is good to feed children. She is helping food consumers become aware of what is in packaged food, how it may be more damaging to their kids health than they presently believe, and empowering kids to try real food and make better choices.

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/state/more-veggies-equal-more-brainpower-first-lady-tells-1067526.html

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Paul Harris December 2, 2010 at 12:21 am

Let’s remember this Palin rant when she is competing against Mike Huckabee for the Republican nomination for President. As Arkansas Governor, Huckabee ran a very successful campaign (at the time) to try and get Arkansawyers/Arkansans to lose weight.

Paul Harris
Author, “Diary From the Dome, Reflections on Fear and Privilege During Katrina”

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estfar June 7, 2011 at 6:36 pm

That our country is being hijacked by an idiot. A hillbilly Barbie who I am surprised we give this much attention to. How can this be? Really, you would take health recommendations from Palin? Really? This is the same woman who doesn’t want a national healthcare policy because that’s big government telling us what to do. Really? And Medicaid is another one of those things we can do without. Really? And getting some suggestion on having a healthier life by curving obesity among the nation’s children is a bad thing. Really? God, can someone please take her out of the picture so we don’t ever have to listen to her idiocy ever again.

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