Mary Kate Cary wrote a very good column making the case for why conservatives should support Michelle Obama's anti-obesity crusade, but there's one point I think she could have fleshed out a bit more. That is: Suppose instead of nutrition we were discussing abortion--or any other issue that commonly falls in the universe of "family values"?
Mary Kate quotes conservative gadflies Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck as decrying Mrs. Obama's anti-obesity campaign as nanny state-ism run amok. And that would be a valid argument (admittedly a novelty for those two) if we were talking about an attempt to legislate what children are allowed to eat. ("Chicken fingers: rated NC-17.) But what we're talking about is making sure that the food children get at school is nutritious. [See editorial cartoons about Palin.]
As Mrs. Obama put it in an August op-ed for the Washington Post:
...even if we all work to help our kids lead healthy lives at home, they also need to stay healthy and active at school. The last thing parents need or want is to see the progress they're making at home lost during the school day.
In other words, if parents are trying to make sure their children eat properly, Mrs. Obama's notion is that public schools shouldn't undercut them by serving up pizza and chicken nuggets. For the life of me I can't see the problem with this idea. As a general matter I would think that parents are either trying to get their children to eat nutritiously or they are apathetic. I can't imagine there are many folks out there affirmatively pushing Twinkies and cheese sticks at home whose efforts would be undermined by salads and grains at school.
Which brings me back to the abortion question. Suppose we were talking about a "family values" issue where schools were advocating for abortion or same sex marriage? Conservatives would be screaming from the roof tops and talk radio microphones: How dare the schools undermine the lessons we are trying to teach at home?
Of course the right periodically does go off on such crusades. The critical difference is that nutrition isn't a difference of opinion. There might be a wide range of views among parents at a given school about abortion, but eating healthily affects everyone.
So why don't Palin and Beck rally to Mrs. Obama's side on this no-brainer of an issue? Oh wait: I've just answered my own question. It's a damning statement about the right that (with a few notable exceptions like Mike Huckabee) they give their reflexive opposition to anything with the name Obama attached to it such free rein.