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Ronald Reagan loved jellybeans. The first President Bush hated broccoli. Heart surgery survivor Bill Clinton, once a big fan of the Big Mac, is now a near-vegan – earning him person-of-the-year honors from PETA. President Obama, trying to make the GOP leadership feel at home, recently held a so-called Slurpee Summit.
Our country has become so polarized that now even food has become political fodder. Leave it to Sarah Palin to exploit a supposed dietary divide with her televised crack Sunday about Michelle Obama's campaign against obesity.
"Where are the s'mores ingredients?" Palin asked as she rummaged through her family's very cool RV during a camping trip on the latest episode of "Sarah Palin's Alaska."
"This is in honor of Michelle Obama, who said the other day we should not have dessert."
In addition to being a cheap shot, the seemingly off-hand quip goes to the heart of Palin's strategy of painting herself as a woman of the people and the Obamas/Democrats as elitist haters of gooey, All-American treats.
In her TV world, we're somehow forced to choose between the yummy (snack food and the caribou she shot) and, well, being force-fed our veggies (we're guessing the Obamas' White House vegetable garden would be razed in a Palin administration). She deftly turned s’mores into something more: a new symbol of the Libertarian/Tea Party cry against a nanny state.
Her s'mores quip, writ large, speaks to, among other things, the opposition against the Obama health care overhaul. After winning a Federal Court victory last week invalidating part of the White House plan, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli opined that requiring people to purchase health insurance could lead to the government power to “force us to buy other products — cars, gym memberships, asparagus.”
We like Slate columnist Dahlia Lithwick’s take on what the magazine called “the dreaded broccoli uprising.”
“Listening to the anti-government chatter these days, it's clear that the new socialist revolution will be spearheaded by a lone asparagus,” she wrote.
You would think that Michelle Obama couldn't have picked a less controversial and more universal issue to champion than children’s health, particularly in a country where nearly one in three kids are overweight or obese.
Fitness, interestingly enough, has roots as a GOP cause. Teddy Roosevelt was the vigorous embodiment of the benefits of exercise. Dwight Eisenhower started the President's Council on Fitness just in time for the TV age. The first President Bush appointed Arnold Schwarzenegger to head the Council, basically kicking off the future GOP governor's political career.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a former Democrat who won election as a Republican before going independent, has waged war on everything from smoking to salt (all while insisting he has no plans to run for president).
For the record, Michelle Obama hasn’t called for a ban on desserts. President Obama has been know to sneak smokes, and has been spotted taking his daughters for ice cream (he even called Slurpees “delicious drinks”). We're betting the First Family – including Michelle Obama, the Honorary National President of Girl Scouts – might enjoy the occasional s'more. Who doesn't?
On Sunday’s episode, outdoors-woman Palin also returned to the diner where she once worked. She donned an apron and served hearty food to the salt-of-the-earth Alaskans she uses as campaign props on her reality show/infomercial.
The grub looked great. But the rhetoric she’s dishing out is becoming increasingly hard to swallow.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.