By Thomas M. Defrank
DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF
WASHINGTON - Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee have a message for fellow Republicans who bash Michelle Obama's anti-obesity crusade: go stand in the corner and eat your broccoli.
The plain-talking New Jersey governor and the former Arkansas governor, both of whom have fought personal poundage problems, took a dim view Sunday of the rhetorical food fight that Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) have launched against the First Lady. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the Tea Party.]
Huckabee told Fox News Sunday that he isn't "in a war" with the trio, who have blasted Michelle Obama's eat-better campaign as an intrusion on individual freedom.
"I'm just simply saying that what Michelle Obama is proposing is not that the government tells you that you can't eat dessert," added Huckabee, who lost more than 100 pounds before his 2008 presidential campaign--though he recently confessed to gaining some of the weight back.
"What Michelle Obama has proposed is that we recognize that we have a serious obesity crisis - which we do," he said. "Seventy-five percent of the military-eligible kids going into the Army can't qualify for the physical because they're either overweight or obese and can't meet the minimum Army standards. That's serious. [See photos of Michelle Obama.]
"This is no longer just a health issue, an economic issue - it is becoming an issue of national security."
Without singling out Obama's detractors by name, Christie called their brickbats "unnecessary" on Face the Nation.
"I think it's a really good goal to encourage kids to eat better," he said. "I've struggled with my weight for 30 years and it's a struggle. If a kid can avoid that in his adult years or her adult years, more power to them."
Christie added that "I don't want the government deciding what you can eat and what you can't eat," but said, "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." [Read the Opinion blog: Palin, Limbaugh, and Bachmann's Weird Attacks on Michelle Obama]
The White House had no immediate comment on the bouquets from two of the GOP's most prominent leaders and possible future presidential candidates.
Limbaugh has mocked the First Lady's body type and recently declared, "Nutritionist-at-large Michelle Obama is urging, demanding, advocating, requiring what everybody can and can't eat. She's demanding that everybody eat cardboard and tofu."
Palin and Bachmann have also accused the First Lady of curtailing individual freedoms by trying to dictate lifestyle choices by government fiat.