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.]