I dislike first ladies — as a concept, I mean, not as dinner dates. I think of the first lady as an individual who happens to be married to the guy with the job, rather than as a job in its own right with a huge staff and bloated budget. But I seem to be in a minority, and most Americans appear to be comfortable with the neo-monarchical inflating of the president’s wife into a full-blown Queen Consort. So, to give all those staffers the pretense of something to do, it’s necessary to identify a “cause” for the first lady to “champion.” The Arab Spring? Whoa, steady on. By “cause,” we mean something kinda non-political, more like good works, but with the force of federal power behind it.
So it was decided that Michelle Obama would go to war on childhood obesity. Democrats and Republicans should be able to agree that there’s a lot of it about, and it doesn’t say anything good about where we’re headed. And so it was that the president signed into law the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Like I said, all very bipartisan: It passed in the Senate by unanimous voice vote — because who’s against healthy, hunger-free kids? And thus, in order to lend credibility to a make-work project for the Queen Consort, America is now a land in which a government bureaucrat at the Department of Agriculture sets the maximum permitted calories for school lunches across the fruited plain and all the way to Guam. “I’m confident we have a core healthy set of proposed diets for children,” said Kevin Concannon, the U.S. undersecretary for food, nutrition, and consumer services. At the European Commission, the chef de cabinet, despite his title, does not actually determine the national menu. But in Washington, Tom Vilsack, the secretary of agriculture, is literally the chef de cabinet. He sets the set menu — and there’s no ordering à la carte, not when the carte stretches from Maine to Hawaii.