Huckabee: Lay off Michelle 

Michelle Obama has an unlikely friend in her battle to slim down Americans.

Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas who claims not to have decided whether to once again seek the Republican nomination for president, has told conservatives to find another target when it comes to weight watching. In fact, he says the first lady should be praised for her campaign to improve the dietary habits of a population vastly overweight.

Michelle Obama “has been unfairly criticized,” Huckabee told reporters at a recent Christian Science breakfast.

“We ought to be thanking her,” Huckabee said, noting that obesity has become a national security problem as well as an economic one. He said thousands of would-be military recruits are turned down daily because of their expanding waistlines.

Huckabee knows whereof he speaks, having dropped at least a whole other person from his own six-foot frame in a highly publicized exercise a number of years ago. Some of that problem seems to have slipped back, however, in what might be attributed to too many lunch and dinner appearances and book tour promotions.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, also a prospective candidate for the GOP nomination, spoke of expanding the party’s reach in a major address to the influential Conservative Political Action Conference. He warned that ideological “purity in martyrdom is for suicide bombers,” adding that to be successful, the Republican Party will also need to attract “people who never tune in to Rush or Glenn (Beck) or Laura or Sean (Hannity).”

As with Huckabee, Daniels seems to have weighed the adverse political reactions against telling the truth about the priorities needed to solve some of the nation’s basic problems. Daniels in the past has angered some conservatives for advocating a moratorium on social issues to concentrate on putting the nation’s fiscal house in order.

Certainly, defending Michelle Obama for a reason, even one that is so obviously innocuous and necessary as promoting healthier eating, is dangerous for those even contemplating seeking the presidential nomination in a party where a significant number have an undisguised animosity for the current occupants of the White House. Huckabee openly conceded that his remarks “will probably get me in trouble.”

Daniels, on the other hand, has shown more than a little independence on some of the issues. At this stage, both men probably would be counted as long shots for the nomination, although Daniels at least has the open backing of some of the GOP’s leading old-line acolytes who believe moving to the center is the only path back to the White House in 2012.

Whether or not Huckabee, who admits that his personal finances are comfortable for the first time since becoming a major political figure, wants to put it on the line again is anyone’s guess. A prudent man probably would decide against it. On the other hand, his success as a lecturer, broadcast host and book writer depends on his political visibility. Last time out, he says, he hocked everything he had and doesn’t look forward to doing that again.

But hopefully, his defense of Michelle Obama’s anti obesity campaign is a recipe that millions will find a positive inclusion in their cookbooks.

Dan K. Thomasson is a former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service.

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Dan K. Thomasson

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