Palin not too sweet on Michelle Obama's efforts to battle the nation's bulge

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Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, December 30, 2010

Some Republicans watching the cluttered 2012 presidential field may have found an unlikely point of disagreement: the first lady and flab.

Sarah Palin has taken to assailing Michelle Obama's anti-obesity initiative on her reality show and elsewhere, while former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, the Republican Party's resident authority on obesity and a potential Palin rival, has been defending it from Palin's salvos. Two other possible GOP presidential contenders, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.), have also praised Obama's efforts.

In a recent broadcast of "Sarah Palin's Alaska," the former governor, high school basketball player and avid runner prepared s'mores (ingredients: marshmallows, Hershey's chocolate bars and graham crackers) and said the treat was "in honor of Michelle Obama, who said the other day we should not have dessert."

In fact, the first lady has never suggested that sweets be banned from the dinner table, cafeteria or campground. She says she tells her daughters, Sasha and Malia, that "dessert is not a right" and that meals should be balanced with fruits and vegetables.

In a recent interview with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham to promote her latest book, Palin again dismissed Obama's anti-obesity effort as "some politician or politician's wife's priorities," which amount to what she has in the past called a "nanny state run amok."

She told Ingraham that the first lady should "get off our back and allow us as individuals to exercise our own God-given rights to make our own decisions."

Palin's criticism tracks closely with those of many other conservatives who have complained of government overreach and consider Obama's initiative and the recently passed child nutrition law as intrusions into schools.

When asked about Palin's comments, Obama told Barbara Walters in an interview last month that the issue "transcends politics."

"Parents, families, communities have the largest impact on how kids think about anything, particularly what they eat. But ultimately it requires all of us."

Conservative broadcast hosts Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh have also criticized Obama's efforts, as has commentator Michelle Malkin, who named Obama to her list of "Big Nannies of the Year."

But Huckabee, who famously shed more than 100 pounds in part by cutting out processed sugar and white flour, quickly came to the first lady's defense.

horowitzj@washpost.com hendersonn@washpost.com


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