Growing international terrorism. A troubled economy. Rising health care costs.
All weighty issues for the U.S. president.
Now we can add another burning topic to the commander-in-chief’s list: Whether he should have the right to choose the foods that appear in his photo ops.
A group called The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is urging the White House to issue an executive order that bans “unhealthy foods” from photo ops involving the president, first lady, vice president and members of the Cabinet.
In particular, the group targets processed meats, such as hot dogs, “that can cause cancer and obesity,” and it also raises alarms about burgers and ice cream.
This organization, no stranger to controversy, has been accused by some of promoting causes based on questionable science in order to further an agenda tied to veganism and animal rights. Whether or not that’s true, this proposal is bad politics. Here are five reasons why:
1. Hot dogs, burgers and ice cream are among foods that help celebrate our culture. Politicians are often photographed eating them at ball games, barbecues and other venues. There’s no good reason to abandon these traditions.
2. Life is about balance. No one is saying you should eat hot dogs all day, or even at all. Individuals need to make choices and show responsibility.
3. Food is part of the growing momentum for local products that retailers and consumers are embracing. Should we strike from the photographic record all local foods that don’t meet certain health standards? How about instead we let the market decide.
4. Why should one group declare itself the gatekeeper here? Will presidents need to get approval from this body before being seen near foods? What other foods will make this list?
5. A better plan is to look at the president’s net effect on health. That impact is highly positive, especially given Michelle Obama’s progressive efforts in the Let’s Move campaign.
My argument probably won’t convince everyone. If not, here’s a way to solve the problem and possibly the U.S. deficit at the same time: Put the photo ops out for sponsorships. Let food companies pay for which products get included in pictures with the president. Sounds ridiculous? Of course. But no more so than dictating to politicians which foods to be seen with.