Someday, right-wing ideologues are going to choke on their hatred of Michelle Obama.

The latest line of attack against the first lady was facilitated by the Washington Post, which breathlessly reported recently that she had ordered a hamburger, french fries, a chocolate shake and a Diet Coke at a D.C. restaurant: 1,700 calories, the report calculated (then later corrected its estimate to 1,500.)

The investigative reporter was not able to learn whether the first lady actually ate the whole thing or maybe shared it, but what’s the difference?

(In case you hadn’t already noticed, the Washington Post has come a long way from the days of Woodward and Bernstein.)

Conservative media ran with the story, of course, charging Obama with rank hypocrisy and continuing their vicious ridicule of her campaign against childhood obesity. The attack has become so bizarre that the rotund Rush Limbaugh has taken to calling the svelte first lady fat.

How dare she conspire to lower our children’s blood-sugar levels while increasing their energy and self-esteem?


Only Grade A prime idiocy could turn what used to be a staple of responsible parenting — getting children to eat what’s good for them — into a sinister social-engineering plot. It’s enough to make us sick to our stomachs.

Besides, we need to tackle the problem of childhood obesity before today’s kids develop serious health problems like diabetes — problems that they won’t grow out of.

It’s a complex challenge that needs to be addressed on many levels over time.

Take, for instance, “food deserts”: nearly 24 million people, including 6.5 million kids, live in areas without supermarkets. Some research has tied that dearth of healthy food to increased obesity.

Then, Michelle Obama — there she goes again — joined with leading retailers such as Wal-Mart, Walgreens and Supervalu to announce a plan to place 1,500 stores into areas without easy access to fresh fruit and vegetables.

But a new report by the University of North Carolina published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that living close to a supermarket doesn’t necessarily mean a person eats healthier meals. Following about 5,000 people over 15 years, researchers discovered that income and proximity to fast-food restaurants had more effect on the kinds of foods people choose.


Opponents of the obesity campaign jumped on the study to suggest the whole idea is a scam, but look closer.

In the first place, supermarkets sell at least as much junk and processed food as they do fresh produce, and it’s much cheaper. Families without experience eating meals prepared with fresh food frankly need to develop new tastes and new habits.

And then there’s the price. A Happy Meal can cost less than a healthy meal of fish and vegetables — and you don’t have to cook it.

With supermarkets, it’s not a question of “build it and they will come.” Rather, it’s “build it, advertise, provide education and support.” The first step remains the same, though: Build it.

In this and other aspects of the drive to end childhood obesity, first lady Michelle Obama has proven to be a dedicated and savvy campaigner — and maybe that’s what some people will never forgive her for.

Editorial by the Philadelphia Daily News distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.