February 3 2014
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
First lady Michelle Obama is the patron saint of healthier kids. She launched the “Let's Move!” campaign and the National School Lunch Program to get youngsters to eat more healthful, more nutritious food.
She has appeared on numerous television shows and magazine covers pressing the message that kids ought to stop eating junk, get up from the TV or video screen and get moving. And she's put all public school kids on a diet (whether they need it or not), limiting their caloric intake to a degree remarkably similar to prison inmates'. So who could possibly impugn the good work to which Mrs. Obama has dedicated the last five years of her life?
Former CBS news anchor Katie Couric, who is promoting her new project, a biased documentary on the food industry titled “Fed Up,” says Michelle Obama shares some of the blame for obesity in America. According to Couric, school lunches are still “junk food” and efforts to work with food industry giants like Wal-Mart — as Mrs. Obama has done — are akin to sleeping with the enemy.
In a review of the film, Variety's Geoff Berkshire calls “Fed Up” formulaic but excuses its artistic failings because of the subject and the heavy hitters who made it. Along with producer Couric (who also narrates), there are Laurie David, the executive producer of Al Gore's “An Inconvenient Truth,” and director Stephanie Soechtig, whose last documentary was a hit job on the bottled-water industry.
According to the film, Berkshire explains, there just hasn't been enough “political will to address the problems” of obesity because Democrats like Mrs. Obama are focused on the wrong problem (burning calories through exercise) and both parties refuse to take on the food industry directly.
Of course, the real enemy in Couric's film is sugar and the big food companies that have (allegedly) been conspiring to hurt young Americans by putting more of the toxin sugar in their products, thereby making them obese and pushing them to an early grave. Moreover, the filmmakers argue, big food is in bed with big government — mostly the USDA — to promote these edible poisons to unsuspecting children.
Couric and company spread the blame by lumping Mrs. Obama and even President Bill Clinton in with “bad” Republicans like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.
But what's especially noteworthy is that Couric seems to believe that the solution to the obesity problem is more big government. Couric isn't pushing a message of self-discipline and parental responsibility. She's not arguing that it is parents who have to make the right food choices for their kids. She seems to believe that the big-food, big-government conspiracy she's uncovered would best be remedied with more big-government rules, mandates and bans on what individual citizens can and cannot eat and drink.
Funny, but that reminds me of no one else as much as Michelle Obama.
Abby W. Schachter, a senior fellow at the Independent Women's Forum, lives in Regent Square and blogs about the intersection of government policy and parenting at captainmommy.com.