Over at HotAir today, Howard Portnoy attacked Michelle Obama over her comment that childhood obesity is a national security threat, calling it a “disingenuous” and “idiotic statement”:
But arguably nothing has been as disingenuous as her comments today, which included the observation that
when more than one in four young people are unqualified for military service because of their weight, childhood obesity isn't just a public health threat, it's not just an economic threat, it's a national security threat as well.
One might well wonder in what way childhood obesity could be construed as a threat to national security. It might be if everyone in the nation were conscripted into military service as a matter of course, but we haven't had a compulsory draft since 1973. In addition, there are currently 75.2 million children living in the U.S., judging from the best available data. As of September 30, 2010, there were 1.4 million Americans on active duty in the military with another 850,000 on standby in the seven reserve components. Combined, those numbers come to 2.25 million, which means that discounting the “one in four”--or 18.8 million--American children who are obese leaves a pool of 56.4 million able-bodied future volunteers.
The bottom line is that, save for a smattering of concerns that have been voiced over the possibility that the new law will strain school budgets, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act has enjoyed broad bipartisan support. Attempting to curb childhood obesity is a goal one would be hard-pressed to quibble with regardless of political persuasion. Why the First Lady has seen fit to make idiotic statements like the one she did today to sell this idea is the big mystery.
Portnoy wonders how “childhood obesity could be construed as a threat to national security.” Maybe had he not disingenuously cropped Obama's comment, he would understand why she made that comment. As Media Matters noted yesterday, Obama specifically cited “military leaders” who have said that childhood obesity is a national security issue. Here's her full comment (emphasis added):
OBAMA: And from military leaders who tell us that when more than one in four young people are unqualified for military service because of their weight, they tell us that childhood obesity isn't just a public health issue; they tell us that it is not just an economic threat -- it is a national security threat as well.
Michelle Obama didn't just pull that assertion out of thin air. Portnoy simply omitted that she specifically cited military leaders, who indeed have stated that childhood obesity harms military recruitment.
Someone is definitely being disingenuous here - and it's not Michelle Obama.