Conservatives Split Over Opposition to Michelle Obama's Obesity Drive

Is it big government gone awry or just a public health initiative?

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First Lady Michelle Obama's push against child obesity, which mostly calls for reforming school lunch programs, is either nanny state big government "run amok," as Sarah Palin put it, or, as some conservatives concede, a relatively unoffensive effort to make kids healthier. The issue has exposed a slight but interesting divide in the conservative commentariat, which cannot seem to agree on whether they should let the first lady's effort slide or oppose it with all their might. The split reveals a difference of opinion on just how "laissez faire" school lunchrooms should be as well as the limits of anti-Obama opposition just for opposition's sake. Here's what they're saying.

Conservatives Against Michelle's Anti-Obesity Campaign

What [Michelle Obama] is telling us is she cannot trust parents to make decisions for their own children, for their own families in what we should eat. ... 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.
  • Beck: Don't Tell Me What To Eat  The Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet reports that, at a conservative convention, Fox News host Glenn Beck "ridiculed first lady Michelle Obama's campaign to get people to eat healthier snacks like apples or carrots. 'Get away from my french fries, Mrs. Obama,' Beck warned. 'First politician that comes up to me with a carrot stick, I've got a place for it. And it's not in my tummy.'"
  • 'At Odds' With 'Natural Rights'  "The central government's interesting itself in our obesity," Commentary's J.E. Dyer warns, " because that government has made the cost of our health care 'its' problem--and proposing therefore to ban vending machines from schools putatively governed by local school boards and the states--can legitimately be considered at odds with the American idea of government as limited, constitutional, and federal. This arguably puts the proposition at odds, by extension, with the American idea of the citizen, the state, and natural rights."

Conservatives Defending Michelle From Fellow Conservatives

  • Nothing Wrong With This Plan  "Insinuations from her critics notwithstanding, Obama has not endorsed nanny-state or controversial remedies such as ending sugar subsidies, imposing soda-pop taxes or zoning McDonald's out of certain neighborhoods," The Washington Post's Fred Hiatt counters. " Instead, she is pushing for positive, voluntary change: more recess and physical activity, more playgrounds, more vegetable gardens, fresher food in schools and grocery stores, better education on the issue for parents and children. All of this makes total sense, and historians will marvel (much as they will at climate-change deniers) that anyone could doubt it."
  • Michelle Following Example of Nancy Reagan  The Wall Street Journal raps Palin on the knuckles. "No one hates the nanny state more than we do, but Mrs. Obama isn't exactly ordering up Lenin's Young Pioneers. Adults do have an obligation to teach children how to live, and that includes adults who are role models by dint of their national prominence. JFK asked kids to do chinups for the Presidential Fitness Award, and Nancy Reagan asked them to 'just say no' to drugs," they write. "Palin would be more effective if she made some distinctions among the Obama policies that really are worth opposing."
  • Fight Against Michelle 'Counterproductive'   "This is worse than silly; what Palin is doing is downright counterproductive," Commentary's Peter Wehner writes. "Obesity is a leading cause of preventable death in America, second only to smoking. So the problem of childhood obesity is real. And there are entirely reasonable steps that can be taken to address it, including (to name just one) banning vending machines from schools. Does that constitute the 'nanny state run amok'?"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.