Fox News contributor Sarah Palin hasn't shied away from attacking First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative, designed to fight obesity by urging Americans to become more active and to eat healthier. Palin, adopting a drastically different tone than when she served as Alaska's governor, has ridiculed Obama's common sense effort numerous times.
Like scores of conservative commentators, Palin has condemned the First Lady for allegedly overstepping the government's bounds and trying to dictate what citizens can eat. ("Just leave us alone, get off our back.") Worse, she's squashing individual choice and personal responsibility.
Obama and Democrats are promoting the dreaded Nanny State, where government officials try to tell citizens how to live their lives to the point where they're making dietary suggestions! (No word from conservative critics if they're still upset Uncle Sam helped to dramatically reduce the U.S. smoking rate in recent decades.)
It's tyranny! The first lady's banning foods!
First, the claim that Obama's trying to ban Americans from eating fatty foods represents an obvious lie. She, of course, does not have that power. But more importantly, the guidelines that government nutritionists are now emphasizing simply urge Americans to eat less fatty foods. They're not suggesting salt and fat and sugar be banned. They're suggesting people eat less of each. Period.
So can we stop with the idiotic, right-wing media gotcha's every time a member of the First Family is spotted eating a BBQ rib. That's not an act of hypocrisy, since the entire thrust of the nutrition campaign revolves around moderation, not some dopey drive for abstinence.
That's simply a first lady fabrication pushed by the Rush Limbaugh's of the world (she's "demanding everybody eat cardboard and tofu"), concocted as an excuse to advertise their hatred for the first family.
Secondly, note that when First Lady Laura Bush spent the better part of eight years using her White House bully pulpit promoting literacy, particularly among children, there was no pushback from the GOP Noise Machine. There were no far-right commentators complaining that Bush was peddling the Nanny State because everyone knows it's up to parents to decide when their children start reading. The GOP Noise Machine remained silent about the First Lady's reading initiative because criticizing the goodwill program would have been insane.
But First Lady Obama trying to get Americans to cut back on fatty foods at a time when the nation's obesity rate skyrockets? The first lady urging Americans to eat less at a time when even the Defense Department has warned that the country's runaway problem of overweight young people is curbing the military's ability to defend the country? Apparently in that context, the first lady's push for better nutrition is viewed as low-hanging fruit among Obama Derangement Syndrome commentators. (i.e. Of course you attack her for that.)
And now proudly leading the anti-nutrition brigade? Sarah Palin.
What's telling is that her current line of partisan attack represents a glaring flip-flop from when Palin delivered her final AlaskaState of the State address in January 2009, months before she quit being the state's governor. In her address, Palin stressed the need for healthier eating habits among fellow Alaskans and noted that a government-sponsored commission would soon be addressing the matter [emphasis added]:
It starts by ending destructive habits, and beginning healthy habits in eating and exercise. In my case, it's hard to slack when you have the ever-present example of an Iron Dogger nearby. But many of us could use a little more time in our great outdoors – and when you live in the Great Land, there's no excuse.
Protecting good health is largely a matter of personal responsibility, but government policy can help. Our new Alaska Health Care Commission will recommend changes that affect the well-being of Alaskans far into the future.
Alaska's governor was urging government to promote healthy eating habits in an effort to reduce the rate of chronic diseases that cost millions in health care costs?
Nanny State alert!
Let's state the obvious: Palin's 2009 comments were not surprising considering that virtually every public official in the country who's paying attention to health care understands that America's accelerated obesity rate represents something of a financialticking time bomb for an already over-stressed health care system. The notion that Americans are getting too fat and that their poor health is costing billions in health care costs is not a secret. In fact, it's common knowledge.
From the nonpartisan CBO:
Because lower rates of obesity are associated with better health and lower health care spending per capita, there is considerable interest in devising policies that would reduce the fraction of the population that is obese.
So if you're the governor of say, Alaska, of course you want your citizens to eat better because that will, in the long run, mean lower health care costs.
This is Public Policy 101. That' why as governor in 2008, Palin called for increasing state funds to "reverse childhood obesity." And that's why the same year Palin also pushed to "develop a statewide initiative called Live Well Alaska. The interactive web-based campaign will provide the best recommendations for eating healthier, being more physically active and quitting tobacco use."
Sounds a lot like the Let's Move! initiative Michelle Obama is touting, right? The initiative that Palin now proudly mocks.
And make no mistake, as governor Palin saw the government playing a key role in reversing the weight-gain trend. Here's what the Alaska Health Care Commission stressed in one of its draft reports:
The state of Alaska incurs an estimated $9-10 million in medical costs due to obesity for state employees alone each year. The doubling in the prevalence of obesity in the U.S. between 1985 and 2004 accounted for nearly 30% of the increase in annual health care expenditures.
There is much more work to be done however - understanding what government, schools, work sites, and communities can do to support healthy choices requires on-going attention.
Finding A1e: Childhood obesity is a growing concern; for example, 33% of kindergarten and 1st grade students in the Anchorage School District are overweight or obese.
Recommendation A1e: The Commission recommends that the Governor and the Alaska Legislature investigate and support addition strategies to encourage and support healthy lifestyles, including strategies to create cultures of wellness in any setting.
That's right, the Alaska Health Care Commission, which Palin touted as governor, stressed precisely what First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! Program has emphasized: The government needs to find a way to help its citizens become more fit and to eat healthier.
Turns out Fox News' Sarah Palin was for that before she was against it.