Newt Gingrich and The Heritage Foundation Team Up to Fail in School Lunch Debate


I always say that if you’re experiencing a listless workout, just queue up an edition of CNN’s Crossfire at the gym and hope for a Newt Gingrich day “on the right.” You’ll be in full Rocky Balboa mode in milliseconds.

Though the former Speaker’s conservative panel counterpart, S.E. Cupp, equals her colleague in aggravation, Gingrich is in possession of a unique sort of smarm that makes one sweaty with disdain. He knows that we know that more than what half of what he says is hypocritical, factless, partisan fame chasing (I wanted to use a rougher word). But he does it anyway. Because it gets attention. It would almost be admirable if it weren’t so infuriating and bad for the country.

Gingrich added another vignette to the story of his long, hackneyed career this week, with a truly remarkable piece of insincere sanctimony on Thursday’s edition of Crossfire. It was there that he partnered with The Heritage Foundation’s Genevieve Wood to spar with co-host Stephanie Cutter and Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The topic was that day’s vote by the House Appropriations Committee to roll back school lunch nutrition standards supported by First Lady Michelle Obama.

While Politico writers Helena Bottemiller Evich and Bill Tomson described the vote as an “unusually high-profile food fight with the White House,” the implications are far more serious. And this being the Republican Party of 2014, the Committee tried to sneak the maneuver through the back door, as a rider to a larger bill.

The Politico piece notes that the assault on childhood nutrition is part of a “fiscal 2015 agriculture spending bill…that would allow schools to opt out of nutrition rules requiring more fruits and vegetables, less sodium and more whole grain-rich products if they are losing money from the healthier meals.” I smell something fishy and it isn’t cafeteria sushi. Let’s hear from freedom fighter New Gingrich, courtesy of Crossfire transcripts:

“We’re debating Washington’s latest attempt to impose rigid uniformity on every aspect of our lives. In today’s case, school lunches.”

People, haven’t you heard? The Nanny State has run amok, and not only that, a few schools are losing money on these healthier lunches because it turns out that if left to their own devices, children would rather drink sodas and eat french fries than make green vegetable decisions. Who knew? This is a shocking violation of a child’s right to choose to stuff themselves full of garbage if that’s what Big Food, I mean they, want. Republicans can tell adult women what to do with their bodies but they’ll be darned if first graders will be given healthy diet support without their express consent. It’s un-American.

Cutter and Wootan wearily corrected the duo at every turn with observations such as this:

“Based on science, if kids eat healthier, they’ll do better in school. 90 percent of schools are already doing this…And today House Republicans are using ridiculous nanny state excuse to undo the standards. We’re spending $11 billion a year of taxpayer dollars on school lunches. Let’s not spend it on junk. That leads to higher rates of obesity and higher health-care costs.”

But it was almost impossible to permeate the delusions – of persecuted grandeur on Gingrich’s part and fiscal libertarianism on Wood’s. What else would we expect but faux stewardship from The Heritage Foundation as a defense for putting corporate interests ahead of the nation’s children? Take this gem from Wood:

“Let’s be clear. What are our schools’ No. 1 priority? It’s teaching kids how to read, how to do math. They’re already failing in that category. So now Michelle Obama thinks we need to come in and tell everybody how to eat.”

Of course Republicans are falling over themselves to pass spending bills to fund public education and help those failing schools, right? Oh wait, no. No they’re not. They’re gutting budgets in a push toward charter school privatization.

It was about the time that Gingrich and Wood started railing against food stamp spending and the other hot potato (pardon the pun), the spud lobby’s push to get on the approved WIC grocery list, that I had to step off the treadmill. Literally and metaphorically. The country is just not getting anywhere listening to the modern day Republican side of well, any issue that matters. They can’t even get behind healthy children and they expect us to swallow their lame and insulting dissembling. They’ve got to go.

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