Michelle Obama doesn't care about fat people.
I'm profoundly disappointed in our First Lady.
I taught American history for many years and have tremendous respect for the women who have served our country by being married to our presidents. My favorite is Dolley Madison, who helped to invent our ideal of what an American woman can be: resourceful, brilliant, gracious.
I understand that as opportunities for women have grown, we tend to see the First Lady as an anachronism rather than as someone who has a crucial role to play in inspiring and setting a tone for the country.
The tendency has been to give her a Cause, a really boring one that no one will pay attention to. Then send her around to build Awareness, in whatever the current equivalent of a tasteful little suit with a smart hat and white gloves is. In other words, what modern First Ladies have mostly done is try to look busy and not make people mad.
The one notable exception to that has been Hillary Clinton, who became such a magnet for vicious criticism that it is not surprising that the First Ladies who followed her have been so tame in their efforts.
I really hoped for more from Michelle Obama. I hoped she would do more than what Laura Bush had done-- choose a bland Cause and try to stay off TV unless she's waving at something.
But what we got was this:
Now, that's about as safe and boring as possible, right? So the question is-- was this chosen for the First Lady as something safe and bland to keep her off TV? Or was it something she actually cared about?
Well, now we know for sure.
Congress recently scrapped new standards for school lunches because of pressure from food lobbyists:
The final version of a spending bill released late Monday would unravel school lunch standards the Agriculture Department proposed earlier this year. These include limiting the use of potatoes on the lunch line, putting new restrictions on sodium and boosting the use of whole grains. The legislation would block or delay all of those efforts.
The bill also would allow tomato paste on pizzas to be counted as a vegetable, as it is now. USDA had wanted to only count a half-cup of tomato paste or more as a vegetable, and a serving of pizza has less than that.
Nutritionists say the whole effort is reminiscent of the Reagan administration’s much-ridiculed attempt 30 years ago to classify ketchup as a vegetable to cut costs. This time around, food companies that produce frozen pizzas for schools, the salt industry and potato growers requested the changes and lobbied Congress.
There has been substantial outrage about this:
Now let's imagine for a moment that the First Lady actually cared about childhood obesity.
Wouldn't she have done something to try to keep this from happening?
Wouldn't she have called Ellen or The View and gone on TV to tell people about it?
Wouldn't she have asked people to write their Senators Representatives and ask them to vote against it?
Wouldn't she have made it a little difficult for her husband to sign the legislation that allowed the tomato paste on a slice of frozen pizza to count as a full serving of vegetables?
Of course she would.
Where was she instead?
Speaking to the Chamber of Commerce.
And talking to campaign workers for her husband's re-election campaign-- while they were being served pizza:
Young campaign workers looked up from their pizza at Obama re-election headquarters in Chicago one evening last month to find an unexpected guest: the first lady of the United States, there to deliver a surprise pep talk.
, who often calls herself the mom in chief, is taking on the new role of motivator in chief.
After nearly three years of limiting her time in the public sphere, she is suddenly ubiquitous: headlining seven fund-raisers in October, promoting new initiatives for veterans and her husband’s stalled, even appearing at job fairs run by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the business lobbying group that has frequently been a nemesis of her husband’s administration.
I think we can say pretty conclusively that Michelle Obama doesn't care about fat people.
She's willing to say some nice words about us and be in a couple of videos that show kids exercising and eating carrots, but that's the extent of her interest. Fat people matter to her if talking about us makes you feel better about her and more likely to vote for her husband.
The First Lady has very limited power-- really all she can do is talk. But I think a few words from Michelle Obama could have saved higher standards for school lunches.
Well, a lot of kids are going to be eating a lot more pizza and french fries. And getting fatter. Which will make them die younger and be a huge drain for everyone in terms of health care.
But the Chamber of Commerce didn't get mad.
And those nice kids working to re-elect the President got their vegetables.
What does this have to with autism?
A lot of people I like and respect recognize that Autism Speaks is deeply flawed, but they continue to support it. They think it can be improved but they believe that it's heart is in the right place.
I don't think Autism Speaks cares about autistic people any more than Michelle Obama cares about fat people. We're a tool for fundraising, and little more, in each case.