Sunday, January 02, 2011

Politics, Politics Everywhere

A New Rule for Bill Maher: When slumming, don't draw attention to yourself.

Of course, then, there would be no purpose to slumming. But you know you're in trouble when a liberal columnist (little likelihood of this coming froma conservative) writes "Sometimes, there really are matters we agree on across partisan and ideological lines."

In his defense, E.J. Dionne was seduced by the holiday season (not, in this case, by the Christmas, or the New Years, season but by the "holiday season"). Dionne went to Hedgesville High School in West Virginia to see his son play in a high school basketball tournament and commended the townsfolk for the "beautiful gym" and the "lovely renovation" of the building.

Dionne continued:

I picked up a copy of The Journal, a daily newspaper based in Martinsburg, and turned to their lead editorial headlined: "Big Problem: West Virginians gain on the obesity ranking."

What struck me is that there was not a hint of politics in the piece -- no Michelle Obama or Sarah Palin. It was just a sensible, civic-minded plea to West Virginians to get into shape. The editorial also included some useful tips as to where they could turn for encouragement and advice. "Come on, West Virginians," it concluded, "it's time to get healthy."

Lord knows, as I have acknowledged before, I am perfectly capable of politicizing lots of things. But not everything should be politicized. Let's look at problems such as obesity not through the lenses of ideological combat but in the sensible way most Americans do, exemplified by that editorial in The Journal.

Your next door neighbor may not want to politicize food. Neither may my next door neighbor. But political commentary is Dionne's job. And this whole thing is political.

It was political when Michelle Obama announced creation of the vegetable garden on the White House's south lawn, which resulted in the lovely photo-op (here, from a Washington Post blog) shown below. And the politics was ramped up a notch when television personality Sarah Palin while making s'mores sneered "This is in honor of Michelle Obama who said the other day we should not have dessert." That was a month before she declared in a speech at a Pennsylvania private school "Who should be deciding what I eat? Should it be government or should it be parents? It should be the parents." That in turn was two months before talk-show host and Chamber of Commerce shill Glenn Beck wrote "Get away from my french fries, Mrs. Obama. First politician that comes up to me with a carrot stick, I've got a place for it. And it's not in my tummy."

So the politics are already there with M. Obama's "Let's Move" campaign. The Journal in Martinsburg, West Virginia may ignore it and E.J. Dionne may ignore it, but it is the elephant in the room. The Washington Post's Fred Hiatt, silly when he frets over how difficult it is to be a First Lady, nevertheless recognizes that it is

not surprising that a crusade seemingly beyond questioning would become a political battle. Interests that might feel threatened by Let's Move include the fast-food industry, agribusiness, soft-drink manufacturers, real estate developers (because suburban sprawl is implicated), broadcasters and their advertisers (of sugary cereals and the like), and the oil-and-gas and automotive sectors (because people ought to walk more and drive less).

It's a little disappointing to see Dionne, usually perceptive, surprised "problems such as obesity" are run "through the lenses of ideological combat." But if the effort to separate politics from principle is fruitless, separating politics from money is equally so.

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