Is Bill Clinton Running For Office?
William Satelan on Clinton's Recent Anti-Obesity Victory:
Nothing's more important to Clinton than the importance of Clinton, so the deal's announcement put him front and center. It was hosted at the Clinton Foundation, whose Web site offers video excerpts of the event. In the background is the classic fabricated blue wall, which you might remember from all those message-of-the-day Clinton White House events. Today's message is pasted all over the wall on smiley-face logos: "Alliance for a Healthier Generation." The video starts with Clinton, then proceeds to the president of the American Heart Association and a parade of soda executives.
First comes the CEO of Cadbury Schweppes, who says the deal is "just one part of an overall strategy" that includes "increasing the amount of calories burned" by kids. That's been the industry's spin all along: Don't blame us, blame lack of exercise. Then comes the CEO of Pepsi, whose first line pops right out of the Clinton speechwriting manual: "This alliance gives [kids] the tools that they need to succeed." She yammers a bit about exercise and says her company and others will offer kids more "nutritious and functional beverages." How can a drink be "functional" if it's not nutritious? It sounds like ad-speak for those "sports drinks" that pretend to be good for you but seldom are.
Finally comes the CEO of Coke, Donald Knauss. He says of the deal, "We think it's going to strengthen our industry's ability to counter the perception that some of our critics have that some of our products don't fit into a balanced lifestyle." I just about fell off my elliptical machine (all this talk of exercise is highly inspiring) when I saw this. Don, you need remedial PR training! Ask that big white-haired guy standing behind you. Of course you're doing this to counter a perception that could hurt your bottom line. But, for God's sake, don't say that. You're supposed to say something about helping kids or doing what's right. Blurting out the stage directions in your consultant's message memo is very un-Clintonian. It's more like Bob Dole or George H.W. ("Message: I care") Bush.
Angry lefties call Knauss and the other CEOs "corporate predators." They label the deal "weak on marketing and enforcement" and denounce "commercialism" as a threat to children, democracy, and the environment. Not Clinton. "Alliance for a Healthier Generation—Clinton Foundation and American Heart Association—and Industry Leaders Set Healthy School Beverage Guidelines for U.S. Schools," says the headline on his press release. The first name in the roll of honor, of course, is Clinton's. But "industry leaders" has a nice ring, doesn't it? The press release returns to it, quoting Clinton: "These industry leaders recognize that childhood obesity is a problem and have stepped up to help solve it." Remember NAFTA? The White House coffees? Clinton never hated business. He knew whose posterior laid the golden eggs, and how to kiss it.
But angry lefties, as Clinton understands, are an important part of a well-balanced diet. That's what made him a great triangulator: Use the threat on your left to make the folks on your right happy to cut a deal with you in the middle. According to the Public Health Advocacy Institute, which threatened for months to sue the soda companies, their "agreement with the Clinton Foundation … comes after sustained pressure from potential litigation and negotiations with public health groups and their lawyers." In other words, the lefties did the dirty work so Clinton could score the winning bucket.
Clinton, of course, sees it differently. The companies "may have liked the way we were working with them, not just singling them out," he told the New York Times. "I'm glad we did it without litigation." That's Clinton: You get the victory; he gets the vanity. Not a bad deal.
Now, Satelan is overall opposed to the "War on Fat" and, in some ways, I agree with him. I'm not a fan of the "obesity epidemic" language and such, but I am a fan of health whether you're fat or slim. I think everyone should have the option to eat a bag of Oreos, but I think that limiting those unhealthy options at school, captives as students are, makes a good deal of sense. In general though, I am more concerned with making healthy options more available as opposed to making unhealthy options less available. But keeping children from filling their bodies with total crap doesn't particularly concern me as some sort of human rights violation, especially since those kids can just bring their soda with them from home or the corner deli.
But why does he act like Clinton is doing this to score some kind of political capital that he no longer needs? Unless ... unless ... Bill Clinton for NYC mayor in 2009? :)