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Originally published Friday, March 4, 2011 at 4:51 PM

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Detractors of crusade against childhood obesity should eat their words

Republicans do not know what to make of first lady Michelle Obama's crusade for healthier food and more exercise for America's children, so they mock her. Childhood obesity is a legitimate national health care issue.

FIRST lady Michelle Obama uses the bully pulpit to crusade against childhood obesity. Her campaign to eat healthier and exercise more is worthy, no matter how much the political right blasts her for promoting a nanny state.

The nation's children are getting fatter. Almost one in three children in the country is overweight or obese. That's not in dispute. This is a huge health problem, also not in dispute. Obese children can begin to experience adult diseases, like diabetes and high blood pressure.

Instead of congratulating the first lady or remaining silent, potential Republican presidential candidates and one radio loud-mouth pretend as if childhood obesity is no big deal.

Talk show host Rush Limbaugh, no poster child for healthy behavior — remember his prescription drug blowout — suggested Obama is a hypocrite for dining on ribs on a recent vacation.

"The problem is, and I dare say this, it doesn't look like Michelle Obama follows her own nutritionary, dietary advice," Limbaugh said. "And then we hear that she's out eating ribs at 1,500 calories a serving and 141 grams of fat per serving... Leaders are supposed to lead. ... If we are supposed to eat roots, berries and tree bark, show us how."

Even Mitt Romney, a likely 2012 candidate, tossed in a dig as he mocked President Obama's move toward the political center. He joked that the president had shifted politically to the point where "he sounded like he was going to dig up the first lady's organic garden to put in a Bob's Big Boy."

The first lady is giving voice to a national health issue. Republican Mike Huckabee, another likely presidential contender, got closer to the truth when he said: "I think it's out of reflex. We don't have to believe that everything she says is bad."

Really, so much bile about not much. It's one thing to dislike the Obamas, quite another to have a cow about greater understanding of the caloric content of foods, getting off the couch and touting the relatively benign sentiment of "Eat Your Veggies."

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