When President Obama indulges in fast food while traveling he exhorts interested onlookers: "Don't tell Michelle." The fit First Lady is, of course, an advocate of healthy foods and outspoken about childhood obesity. She had her own "Don't tell Barack" moment recently, when she stopped at a diner in Milwaukee and had classic greasy fare: a burger and fries. Mrs. Obama's meal really wouldn't be anyone else's business were it not for her own aspiration to rewrite the nation's menus.
In a speech to the National Restaurant Association, the First Lady reportedly "pleaded with restaurants small and large to take a little butter or cream out of their dishes, use low fat milk and provide apple slices or carrots as a default side dish on the kids' menu."
Of course people should eat healthier. American adults are overweight; so are their offspring. But Mrs. Obama's health initiatives are perturbing on more levels than the food pyramid. Not only does this seem rather invasive, as privately owned restaurants have always possessed the right to sell raw foods, obscene amounts of alcohol, and food laden with butter as long as that's what their customers are willing to pay for. It also ignores the personal responsibility of those who choose to partake.
None of this is of any concern to Mrs. Obama, who proceeds directly from the fact that obesity is unhealthy to the notion that government officials -- and their hectoring wives -- should regulate our diets accordingly. To a certain extent, however, her pet crusade is more overblown than young people are overweight. According to the National Institutes of Health, malnutrition and health maladies among young people aren't among the top killers of infants to 24-year-olds. Instead, accidents, cancer, and homicide are the three biggest culprits.
Obesity is nevertheless more fashionable and gives the health police, who have long been regulating tobacco, new avenues for exercising their power. When Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) asked then Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor if Congress had the power to mandate the recommended daily servings of fruit and vegetables, he might not have been just illustrating a point. Perhaps he was being prescient.
To make matters worse, Mrs. Obama fails to practice what she preaches. A quick look at the menus at White House state dinners she attends provides a study in caloric intake, despite her pleas for a more nutrition-conscious nation. Huckleberry cobbler is a family favorite and she recently admitted she is a French fry lover and her kids devour macaroni and cheese. Do as I say, not as I do.
Those who resent extreme anti-smoking activists have been known to argue hyperbolically, "Smoking is healthier than fascism." Similarly, a steady diet of fat may be preferable to moral busybodies forcefeeding their preferences to the rest of us, clogging the arteries of the body politic.
Maybe next time Mrs. Obama ventures out to a diner she should tell curious bystanders: "Shh, don't tell restaurateurs."
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