Palin, Limbaugh, and Bachmann's Weird Attacks on Michelle Obama

Talking heads of the far right have found a way to attack the successful first lady.

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For the people who still can't stand the fact that someone with a darker hue and a non-Anglo name is in the White House, it must be frustrating, looking for something to denigrate the woman who married him. And yet, they persist.

What can be said about Michelle Obama? That she's a Harvard-educated lawyer, half of a parenting team that has produced, by all indications (since the Obamas have wisely gone to great lengths to protect their children's privacy) two well-behaved and adorable girls, and that she is leading an important mission against childhood obesity. Really, is there anything offensive in that personal resume? [See photos of first lady Michelle Obama.]

Oh, but it seems there is, in the eyes of the Obama-haters and just the haters in general. First, we have Rush Limbaugh, who, as Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank notes, bizarrely slams the first lady for daring to eat barbecue and for not looking like the picture of health she's seeking to promote. "Our first lady does not project the image of women that you might see on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue," said Limbaugh, who, Milbank points out, is on the doughy side himself. Michelle Obama is in phenomenal shape, so the comment on its face was baffling. But that wasn't Limbaugh's subtext, anyway. Faced with a world in which women now outnumber men on college campuses, and earned more doctoral degrees last year than men, Limbaugh is desperately trying to cling to a world in which a woman's role is to put her energies into achieving an appearance that gets her work posing, with a simpering look on her face, in a bikini for a magazine usually dedicated to actual sports. I'm just guessing here, but I doubt that's why Michelle Obama went to law school. Limbaugh hasn't figured out, in the 21st century, that just because he judges women on a certain level, women do not compete on that level for his entertainment and general benefit. But cheer up, Rush. Women still get paid less than men for doing the same job.[See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.]

So what's the next line of attack? Yes, it's mother's milk. Both Sarah Palin and Rep. Michele Bachmann have criticized Michelle Obama for promoting breast-feeding, which Obama notes is tied to lower obesity rates in children. Palin snidely commented that "yeah, you better [breast-feed] because the price of milk is so high right now." Infants who aren't breast-fed are given formula, not cow's milk. And Bachmann decried the "nanny state" that encouraged the IRS to list breast pumps as a medical device eligible for tax deduction. What is her point, that women should feed formula instead of expressed breast milk, to babies in cases where the infants have trouble latching onto the breast, or when the women are working outside the home and can't breast-feed for every feeding? This isn't a subsidy to taxi women back and forth to their homes from work for breast-feeding. This is a tax deduction that is pretty limited—unless a taxpayer spends more than 7.5 percent of her adjusted gross income on medical expenses, the deduction can't be taken. It's more likely to be used as an expense under health savings accounts. Such plans allow taxpayers to set up a tax-free fund for medical expenses, and allow people to pay for things like contact lens solution. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the Tea Party.]

If Limbaugh and Palin and Bachmann want to go after Obama or the Democrats, that's their right as the right. But please, come up with something more substantive and thoughtful than Michelle Obama's dietary advice.

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