Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Michelle Obama, Sarah Palin and Vegetables

Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin stopped me cold with her first sentence in this recent piece:
First Lady Michelle Obama's fondness for food hectoring is annoying in two respects.
Apparently Rubin takes exception with the First Lady’s advocacy for healthy eating, and shows her dislike with the use of the verb hectoring, as though Michelle Obama were right there at the dinner table wagging her finger at the kids.

I learned in ninth grade social studies to watch out for loaded words in political rhetoric—a lesson that Rubin, a recent addition to the venerable paper's lineup of columnists, may have missed. Call me old-fashioned, but I was taught that an effective political communicator should persuade, instead of simply venting. But for far too many professional communicators, snide is the new clever.

After catching my breath, I finished the column and discovered that Rubin thinks child nutrition is "trivial stuff." Tell that to the growing number of young Americans entering adulthood with decades of diabetes ahead of them.

Rubin’s space at the Post, which is called Right Turn, seems to me designed to replicate the tone of the cable news rantings I do my best to avoid. Perhaps the Post has found a place for such dreck in an attempt to seem relevant to the D.C. political class that keeps the boob tube on all day to ensure they don’t miss even a moment of incivility.

Rubin is joined in her disdain for food policy by another Post columnist, Alexandra Petri, who lets go with this soul-satisfying tirade:
Like most of America, I am functionally a six year-old child, and I will eat whatever I want to eat. Michelle wants me to move and eat greens? She can take those greens and shove them! Sarah's making me s'mores!
I'll get to Sarah Palin in a moment. But first: Who turned the opinion pages of one of the country’s great newspapers over to functional six year-olds? As for Palin, she did indeed take a swipe at the First Lady on her television show:
"Where are the s'mores ingredients? This is in honor of Michelle Obama, who said the other day we should not have dessert."
For the record, I have not heard the First Lady lead the charge to banish dessert from the dinner table. But back to Petri:
"Eat your vegetables!" President Obama says, metaphorically, pointing to a complicated series of graphs about health-care reform. Eat your vegetables! The New START Treaty needs to pass! Eat your vegetables! The deficit needs to be reduced, somehow! Eat your vegetables!
Enough of this serious policy, already. I want dessert! Who wants to actually govern the country, when we can all just chat about the latest bit of sarcasm from Sarah Palin? Rubin and Petri (or Palin for that matter) may not have the patience for the hard work it takes to make kids healthier, make the country safer or reduce the deficit. But for me at least, and for millions of voters, these are the reasons we have a national government. (Jonathon Capehart, one of the grinds at the Post who does policy, asks if this flippancy has anything to do with Palin's unfavorable ratings in the polls.) The grownup work of actually governing can’t be made any easier by the grade school snickering from the back of the class.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Dave Burris said...

Tom -- I agree. It's a childish approach, especially considering they misrepresented what Michelle Obama said.

Not only that, but there are some who would argue that childhood obesity is a national security issue.

I'd be the first one to stand up against the government dictating what we can and can't eat, but I'll also be one who stands and applauds an effort to encourage parents and kids to make better choices.

6:25 PM, December 21, 2010  

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