'Let's Move!' Oversteps its Bounds

This past Sunday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee offered commentary on Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign.

On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Christie was asked, “What do you think about this criticism coming from the right of Michelle Obama, because she’s trying to get people to eat better?”

He replied, “I think it’s unnecessary.  I think it’s a really good goal to encourage kids to eat better.  … And I think the First Lady is speaking out well.  … I don’t want the government deciding what you can eat and what you can’t eat.  I still think that’s your choice.  But I think Mrs. Obama being out there encouraging people in a positive way to eat well and to exercise and to be healthy, I don’t have a problem with that.”

On “Fox News Sunday,” Mike Huckabee declared, “What Michelle Obama is proposing is not that the government tells you that you can’t eat dessert.  … What Michelle Obama has proposed is that we recognize that we have a serious obesity crisis, which we do.”

Similarly, at a Christian Science Monitor-sponsored event on Feb. 23, Huckabee opined that Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity campaign has been greeted negatively by some conservatives “because she is the one presenting it.”  He added, “I still think that her approach is the right one.  I do not think that she’s out there advocating that the government take over our dinner plates.  In fact, she’s not.  She’s been criticized unfairly by a lot of my fellow conservatives.  I think it’s out of a reflex rather than out of a thoughtful expression, and that’s one of the things that bug me most about the political environment of the day.”

There’s just one little problem.  It appears that Governors Christie and Huckabee don’t have a realistic grasp of what Michelle Obama is actually doing.

As reported by The New York Times, “A team of advisers to Mrs. Obama has been holding private talks over the past year with the National Restaurant Association, a trade group, in a bid to get restaurants to adopt her goals of smaller portions and children’s meals that include healthy offerings such as carrots, apple slices, and milk instead of French fries and soda.”

The column continued, “The discussions are preliminary, and participants say they are nowhere near an agreement like the one Mrs. Obama announced recently with Walmart to lower prices on fruits and vegetables and to reduce the amount of fat, sugar, and salt in its foods.  But they reveal how assertively she is working to prod the industry to sign on to her agenda.”

The Times added, “Her team has worked with beverage makers to design soda cans with calorie counts and is deeply involved in a major remake of the government’s most recognizable tool for delivering its healthy-eating message: the food pyramid.  … She encouraged lawmakers to require restaurants to print nutrition information on menus, a provision that wound up in President Obama’s landmark health care law.”

Does that sound like simply “encouraging people in a positive way to eat well and to exercise and to be healthy,” as Christie said?  Or like she is just proposing “that we recognize that we have a serious obesity crisis,” as Huckabee stated?

Not quite.

If the First Lady wants to be an outspoken voice for the benefits of healthy living and her family chooses to promote a healthy lifestyle by example, that’s her decision to make.  However, I don’t want our First Lady meddling in the business practices of restaurants, pressuring restaurants to adopt certain portion sizes and/or food options, designing soda cans, remodeling our food pyramid, and/or making mandates on restaurants with respect to nutrition information.

As a side note, if Michelle Obama does indeed plan to lead by a healthy example, she might want to consider removing the bratwurst, cheeseburgers, deep-dish pizza, buffalo wings, chips and dips, ice cream, and other treats from the White House Super Bowl menu next time around.

Bottom line:  Let’s Move! is about a lot more than inspiring us to eat better.  It’s about control.  And sadly, what should be the most important message of all—that of personal responsibility, of taking ownership of your choices and their consequences—is often nowhere to be found.