First-lady follies

Michelle Obama is finding the glass house she resides in more transparent than ever, even when she’s on vacation in Colorado.

Some of the criticism she’s received in the past week is deserved, but some of it is patently unfair.

The controversy of her own making involved Obama’s comments that she supports making it easier for mothers to breast feed their babies. In doing so, she appeared to endorse new IRS rules that offer tax deductions to women who purchase breast pumps.

Not surprisingly, conservative women like Sarah Palin and Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann jumped all over the news, and not without reason.

In a federal tax code already bloated with thousands upon thousands of obscure tax credits and deductions, do we really need another one ostensibly aimed at encouraging women to breast feed? As healthy and wonderful as breast feeding is, the rule would only benefit women who earn enough money to itemize their taxes in order to qualify for the deductions.

Bachmann’s claim of “nanny state” overreaching in the new rules hit close to home. No wonder a spokesman for the first lady issued a brief statement shortly afterward saying that the decision to breast feed is “personal.”

Speaking of things “personal,” one might think that the choice of restaurant meal while one is on vacation fits the bill. But not if you’re the first lady.

When Obama dined on beef short ribs at a Vail restaurant during a quick ski trip to Colorado last weekend, her meal became fodder for attacks by Rush Limbaugh and others. It was hypocritical, they suggested, because the first lady is promoting efforts to reduce child obesity.

“The problem is ... it doesn’t look like Michelle Obama follows her own nutritionally, dietary advice,” Limbaugh said.

Oh, come on. The fact that Obama is urging youngsters to eat healthier doesn’t mean she can never enjoy a hearty meal, that she should live on berries and roots, as Limbaugh suggested.

Limbaugh followed up by complaining that Michelle Obama doesn’t “project the image of women that you might see on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.” Oh horrors!

Put aside the fact that Limbaugh doesn’t exactly look like Brad Pitt, or that Michelle Obama is one of the most fit first ladies ever to reside in the White House. Does Limbaugh or anyone else really believe the wife of the president should project the image of a scantily clad swimsuit model?

Michelle Obama is a public figure and, when she enters the political arena to voice support for controversial policy matters, she’s fair game for critics, just like any politician.

But when Limbaugh and others are relegated to rummaging through her meal scraps for attack material, the first lady doesn’t have much to worry about.


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