Yesterday, it was widely reported that New Jersey governor Chris Christie was asked by an 11-year-old boy on the campaign trail what he'd do about school food if he were elected president. According to CBS News, the boy nicely teed up the question for Christie with: "[School meals] were fine when Mrs. Bush was the first lady, but now that Mrs. Obama is the first lady they have gone down." And of course, Christie responded exactly as one would expect a Republican presidential candidate to respond: by railing against the First Lady for her vocal support of healthier school meal standards.
ABC News quotes Christie as saying, "The first lady has no business being involved in this." CBS News says he added, "If she wants to give her opinions about what people should have for breakfast or lunch or dinner, she is like any other American, she can give her opinion. But using the government to mandate her point of view on what people should be eating every day is none of her business." CBS then offered this truly priceless summation of the views of the assembled crowd: "Others in the room agreed with [the boy] and Christie that the government should stay out of school lunches."
People, when you say "government should stay out of school lunches," you sound exactly like the guy who's been endlessly mocked for yelling, "Keep your government hands off my Medicare!"
Thirty-one million school lunches a day are served via a federal program. A government nanny is already cooking your kid's meal. So when Christie told the boy yesterday, "I don't care what you're eating for lunch every day. I really don't. I want you to eat whatever your mother wants you to eat and your father wants you to eat," I'm trying hard to understand the alternate system he's proposing. Nutrition standards set by PTA vote? No standards at all?
Whatever he has in mind, it's hard to listen to this obvious campaign pandering without thinking of Christie's own longtime struggle with obesity, which has been so intractable that he reportedly underwent a secret gastric bypass in 2013. Normally I'd hesitate to even bring this up, as it might be seen as straying into ad hominem territory, but Christie himself once linked his weight problems with school food reform.
Kudos to CBS News for digging up this 2011 quote he gave to The Telegraph, in which he expressly supported Michelle Obama's school food reform efforts:
Christie said it is "a really good goal to get kids to eat better." He added, "I've struggled with my weight for 30 years. And it's a struggle. And if a kid can avoid that in his adult years or her adult years, more power to them. And I think the first lady is speaking out well."
But in a presidential election season, that's all ancient history. We're not supposed to remember anything about Chris Christie circa 2011, because then we'd have to reconcile his current campaign bluster with many other now-inconvenient positions, like his former, much-praised tolerance for Muslims, his support of gun regulation and his championing of women's reproductive rights.
Apparently, caring about kids' health is another position that just won't fly in an election year.