Red Breast, Blue Breast
In case you missed it (and you might wish that you had), breastfeeding is now being used as a ploy for political rants. That’s right. Our political culture has sunk so low as to transform something previously non-controversial, almost entirely free and certifiably healthy into a political hot potato. If this “debate” last longer than two days, I’m officially worried for us all.
Let me catch you up.
Monday -- Michelle Obama noted that her “Let’s Move” campaign on youth obesity would include support for breastfeeding. She said, "And because it's important to prevent obesity early, we're also working to promote breastfeeding… we know that babies that are breastfed are less likely to be obese as children."
Tuesday – While a guest on a radio show, Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann responded, tying Michelle Obama’s support for breastfeeding to a recent IRS decision to allow mothers to use pre-tax money to pay for breast pumps and breastfeeding equipment. Obama had nothing to do with the IRS decision, but since it’s in the same category, it seemed fair game, I suppose. Bachmann shared, "I've given birth to five babies and I breast-fed every single one. To think that government has to go out and buy my breast pump...That's the new definition of a nanny state. Can you imagine if Laura Bush was doing that, out trying to pass her legislation? I think the media would have been after her."
Thursday – Former Governor Sarah Palin jumped into the fray, criticizing Michelle Obama during a live appearance, saying: "No wonder Michelle Obama's telling everybody, 'you'd better breastfeed your baby.' Yeah, you'd better, because the price of milk is so high right now!" Okay, honestly, I’m not following the logic on that one but it's pretty clear she's critical. Palin, also a mother who breastfed her children, has expressed strong support for breastfeeding in the past. As Governor, she declared October 2007 Breastfeeding Awareness Month and in the proclamation wrote, “Government and community organizations have a vested interest in protecting and promoting breastfeeding as a means of preventing infant malnutrition, morbidity, and mortality.
These barbs are particularly discouraging given several recent, uplifting stories about how the lactation rooms on Capitol Hill have become a place of bi-partisan bonding for female staffers and the amazing support the wife of a freshman Congressman experienced when trying to find places to pump while attending the swearing in ceremonies in January.
Really, my reaction to all of this is very simple. We’ve got a lot of really, genuinely controversial things to debate. Off the top of my head: the best way to get us out of this economic slump (spending or cutting deficits) and the role the U.S. should play or not in supporting democratic revolutions in the Middle East. In short, everything doesn't need to be a political controversy. It’s okay to agree sometimes.