David Harsanyi
Two names frequently bandied about as potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates engaged in a minor but revealing squabble this week.

During what I assume was an action-packed episode of "Sarah Palin's Alaska" on TLC, the former vice presidential candidate poked some gentle fun at first lady Michelle Obama's ubiquitous children's health crusade.

And this wasn't the first time Palin had disparaged the campaign and the school nutrition food bill that comes attached to it.

As you would expect, duty beckoned enlightened Americans everywhere to run to their keyboards and ridicule Palin. The few rational Republicans left in the country were called to action and gently explained to this crazy woman that children are the future -- which, evolutionarily speaking, is indisputable.

"With all due respect to my colleague and friend Sarah Palin, I think she's misunderstood what Michelle Obama is trying to do," retorted the once generously proportioned Mike Huckabee on a New York radio show. Obama, explained the former Arkansas governor, is "not trying to tell people what to eat or not trying to force the government's desires on people. She's stating the obvious, that we do have an obesity problem in this country."

(More like overstating the obvious, but that's another story.)

In this case, Huckabee is either confused or, judging from his prior work, the kind of guy who dismisses the distinction between convincing someone and coercing someone. Especially in those historical moments when "something needs to be done," which, as you know, can be often.

Now, if you believe, as the Obamas and countless others do, that local control and parental choice are disposable when the common good is threatened, then empowering Washington to dictate which foods are appropriate in bake sales, PTA functions and local school cafeterias probably sounds like a fantastic idea.

But the recently passed nutrition bill (the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, in Washingtonese), a key component to Mrs. Obama's plan to "end childhood obesity," is in fact both "telling people" what they should eat and "trying to force the government's desires on people."

So when Palin claims that the Obamas do not trust people "to make decisions for their own children," she is not unleashing some Bircher hyperbole; she is summing up the driving idea of two years of public policy and paraphrasing the first lady, who recently explained that when it comes to eating, "we can't just leave it up to the parents."


David Harsanyi

David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist and the author of "The People Have Spoken (and They Are Wrong): The Case Against Democracy." Follow him on Twitter @davidharsanyi.