First Lady Michelle Obama apparently is a big fan of vegetable gardens, organic food, and healthy eating. She encouraged a group that runs farmers markets in the D.C. metropolitan area to set up a market near the White House, and on Thursday she decided to visit the market to buy some “organic Tuscan kale.” This story — which emphasized how her one visit inconvenienced workers and residents in the area, the “carbon footprint” of her one block drive to the market accompanied by Secret Service agents and staff, and how much the hoity toity offerings at the market cost — was the result.
Mrs. Obama thinks that organic foods are important to healthy eating. Although a recent study in the United Kingdom disputes that conclusion — and although I personally wouldn’t recognize “organic Tuscan kale,” much less eat it, under any circumstances — supporting healthy eating seems like as good a “First Lady cause” as any. Her experience with the farmers’ market just confirms that the First Family lives in a fishbowl, where legitimate security concerns make it impossible for the President, or the First Lady, to do simple everyday things without great dislocation and expense. Articles like the linked piece inevitably will result.
A bigger concern for the Obamas, I think, is that emphasizing much more expensive organic kale, or free range animals, or eggs laid by chickens in the wild, is going to strike many Americans who are going through tough economic times as weird and totally out of touch. A home vegetable garden, which Mrs. Obama planted at the White House earlier this year, is just fine. A visit to an upscale market that features “organic dandelion greens” for $12 a pound, when many Americans are dining on the cheapest box of Kraft macaroni and cheese to save a few bucks, sends a message that probably isn’t helpful to the President. Talking about her discussions about vegetables with “kings” and “queens,” as she did on Thursday, doesn’t seem like a good message, either.