WASHINGTON — CNN Crossfire host and former Obama campaign operative Stephanie Cutter has no time for critics of first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign to combat childhood obesity.
Cutter spoke Thursday morning on a POLITICO panel focused on female leadership and entrepreneurialism — titled “Women Rule: Innovating a Movement” — about building and sustaining Obama’s children’s health campaign.
“It really was about the partners, it wasn’t about what government could do, although government did play a role, it was about what everybody could do,” Cutter said, to a room almost entirely comprised of women.
“How could [Michelle Obama] use her position to mobilize the country and that really was the focus,” she continued. “We just took it segments by segment by segment to figure out how we could use all these sectors to reach the goal”
The goal: to solve the obesity problem in America within a generation.
According to Cutter, the campaign was intended to be non-political and not about the Obamas, so the White House sought out willing Republicans — Cutter named former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour — to join the effort.
“There were some minefields. Obviously this country is split politically,” she said.
When asked how she dealt with criticisms of the campaign, Cutter pointed to former Alaska Republican Gov. Sarah Palin.
“The people that were saying that were people like Sarah Palin. So that really wasn’t our target audience,” Cutter said to laughter. “And that was to be understood, something like was going to happen, it was less about the mission of Let’s Move! and more about the politics and the first lady.”
Cutter argued that a lot of Republicans support the effort, which, she said was “seen as non-partisan.”
“The idea of solving childhood and helping kids grow up healthy and active and in control of their futures, it’s hard to make that a political issue, particularly because the first lady made a point of not dictating anything,” Cutter said. “As I said before, this wasn’t about telling parents what to do, this was about giving them options, and tools, and we were very careful about that. And it wasn’t government solving a problem, it was mobilizing a nation to solve a problem.”
“So there were criticisms on right-wing radio, and Sarah Palin and others. [Palin] had a reality TV show at the time where this was a common topic, and she was giving her kids ice cream and things like that,” she said. “We largely ignored that and pushed through it.”
Huckabee discussing the issue on his Fox News program helped, she said.
She added that Obama is still spending most of her time on the anti-obesity effort and advised that to get a movement off the ground, you need “passion.”