A Tale of Two Michelles

Two Michelles

It has been a little over a year since the Let’s Move! campaign, initiated by First Lady Michelle Obama, got off the ground. So far, the reviews are mixed. Some critics ignore the fact that childhood obesity is a huge problem, which has gained enormous momentum over a long period of years. Even the best solution in the world would barely be showing results after only a year. It’s too soon to tell whether any of Ms. Obama’s recommended solutions really work.

But this doesn’t stop political commentators from sniping. Michelle Malkin, an op-ed columnist at The Daily News Record, who can be ferocious in her disapproval, recently complained about two aspects of the Let’s Move! agenda. Malkin says,

The biggest threats to Mrs. Obama’s 70-point plan for national fitness: parental authority and sound science… Two of her showcase social engineering campaigns — tax preferences for breast-pumping working mothers and expanded nutrition labels — are based on distorting or dismissing the prevailing public health literature.

Strangely, Malkin herself is adept at dismissing things. For instance, she mocks the idea that childhood obesity could be a threat to national security. Which is kind of strange, because people who carry the “conservative” label are usually all too ready to see just about anything as a national security issue.

She is particularly ticked off by how the IRS showed its willingness to please the President’s wife. Apparently, there was a movement last year to convince the tax rulers to allow breast pumps and other nursing equipment to be claimed as a medical expense that would be tax-deductible. The IRS said no, but then changed its mind, thanks to the Obama influence. Whatever is supposed to be wrong with that is not exactly clear.

The Surgeon General recommended that businesses encourage mothers to breastfeed by making the workplace environment more friendly to the practice. Malkin sees this as pressure rather than encouragement, and detects hypocrisy in the attitude of the government, which pretends to be innocent of interfering with the personal lives of its citizens.

Malkin says the First Lady’s science is wobbly, and cites authorities who say that breastfeeding doesn’t really make much difference to childhood obesity or anything else. Well, sure. Authorities can always be found to say the opposite of what some other authorities have said. That’s why we have a thing called “research.” If you do it right, a lot of these questions get solved, eventually.

This is just a made-up example, but pretend that an amazing revolution had happened, over the past year, and 10 times as many new mothers were now breastfeeding their infants. Even if that were so, it would still be far too soon to understand the long-term effects.

And, sure, we have knowledge gathered from the millennia when breastfeeding was the norm for humankind. But even this accumulated wisdom might not be reliable, because it’s a different world now. A whole lot of other factors are at work, factors that did not even exist a hundred years ago, which could make breastfeeding irrelevant or even unadvisable. In this, Malkin and Obama stand an equal chance of being wrong.

Malkin suspects that Let’s Move! is only an excuse to increase the paychecks of government bureaucrats and give them more arbitrary power; and also a plot to undermine parental authority. She cannot spare a kind word for the new food-labeling laws, and accuses Ms. Obama of lacking in nuance. Yet there is another side to Malkin, who writes,

Don’t get me wrong. As a proud mom who breastfed both of her babies, I’ve been and will always be a vocal defender of women who have devoted the time, dedication and selflessness it takes.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “First Lady’s Fat Crusade Ignores The Facts,” The Daily News Record, 02/19/11
Image by Wendy Piersall, used under its Creative Commons license.
Image by DavidA1106, used under its Creative Commons license.

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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