Two names frequently bandied about as potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates engaged in a minor but revealing squabble this week.
During what I assume was an action-packed episode of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” on TLC, the former vice presidential candidate poked some gentle fun at first lady Michelle Obama’s ubiquitous children’s health crusade….
In this case, Huckabee is either confused or, judging from his prior work, the kind of guy who dismisses the distinction between convincing someone and coercing someone. Especially in those historical moments when “something needs to be done,” which, as you know, can be often.
Now, if you believe, as the Obamas and countless others do, that local control and parental choice are disposable when the common good is threatened, then empowering Washington to dictate which foods are appropriate in bake sales, PTA functions and local school cafeterias probably sounds like a fantastic idea.
But the recently passed nutrition bill (the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, in Washingtonese), a key component to Mrs. Obama’s plan to “end childhood obesity,” is in fact both “telling people” what they should eat and “trying to force the government’s desires on people.”
So when Palin claims that the Obamas do not trust people “to make decisions for their own children,” she is not unleashing some Bircher hyperbole; she is summing up the driving idea of two years of public policy and paraphrasing the first lady, who recently explained that when it comes to eating, “we can’t just leave it up to the parents.”
Mrs. Obama might be stating the obvious, but instead of placing the blame on parental incompetence or neglect or genes or whatever the reason is that kids are stuffing their little gullets with junk, she is feeding and creating myths to rationalize “action” — whether we’re talking about the lack of access to food (never have we had more access to food) or prohibitive prices (never has food — including healthy fare — been cheaper) or the plague of school lunches.
As for Huckabee, his history of intrusive legislation and alarmism over the crumbling salubriousness of the nation is obviously driven by his own experiences. And if you want to nag us or explain the ramifications of obesity, feel free. Certainly, potential presidents should have the ability to compromise, avoid ideological rigidity and be cognizant of national problems like obesity.
But foundational beliefs like an aversion to federal overreach into local decisions cannot be disposed of because kids happen to be part of the equation. And if Huckabee believes there’s nothing wrong with the federal government controlling local school lunches and instituting national smoking bans, how many issues will he believe are more important than federalism?