President explains First Lady's campaign; defends her dining excursions; hopes for birthday burger...
President Obama did a phone interview with NPR at the end of last week to discuss the debt ceiling negotiations. But Michael Martin, host of Tell Me More, took a big swerve from economic imperatives, and asked questions about the heady topic of the President and First Lady's predilection for hamburgers and French fries, a subject of global interest.
NPR just posted the full, unedited text of the interview, which reveals that the President worked in an exquisitely on-point discussion of Let's Move!, touted the wonders of White House fries, and expressed a foodie birthday wish for his rapidly approaching 50th on August 4th. (Left: The President carries bags from Five Guys into the White House in 2009; burger runs have been going on since the Obamas arrived in DC)
On Shake Shack and Let's Move...
First Lady Obama's recent visit to DC's Shack Shack garnered her international headlines after it was reported that her order of a ShackBurger, chocolate shake, French fries, and Diet Coke amounted to about 1,700 calories. It's also led to citizens being able to walk into the eatery and and order, off menu, "The Michelle Obama Special." Martin asked the President if he believes the media criticism over the burger outing, in light of Let's Move!, was "fair" or "out of bounds."
Although the First Lady is running a national campaign that coordinates the anti-obesity efforts of twelve federal agencies, President Obama responded that his wife's food choices should be "a non-issue," and added that Mrs. Obama doesn't particularly care what the media thinks, anyway. The President's lengthy response included mentioning the impressive private sector commitments Mrs. Obama has gotten to make healthy food more accessible, the importance of healthy school meals, and empowering families to make better food choices:
"Michelle doesn't take that [criticism] too seriously. Michelle knows that – well, let me put it this way. Michelle's never hid the fact that her favorite food is french fries, or that she's going to have a burger once in a while. The whole point that she's been making — which is common sense, and so this should be a non-issue — is how do we make sure that our kids, in particular, have balanced meals on a regular basis?
Because it'll make them healthier; it'll make them do better in school; and it forms lifelong habits that will improve their quality of life. And you know, I think that she has been adamant about saying that there's nothing wrong with having a treat once in a while. There's nothing wrong with going ahead and having a milkshake or a piece of pie, or whatever else you crave.
The question is, what — what is it that on a regular basis you're doing, and what can we do as a society to make sure that, for example, folks in low-income communities have access to a grocery store that actually sells fresh – fresh produce?
And in fact, she — they did a wonderful announcement yesterday talking about food deserts, communities where you cannot – you know, in any reasonable way find fresh and healthy foods and if you do find it, then the prices are jacked up in those communities. And there was an announcement, cooperation from a whole bunch of retailers all across the country. They're going to – they're going to start building new stores that will not only create jobs but also give people healthier options.
And that's what this is all about- - empowering people to have better options so that they can make better decisions for their family. It's not about people not having a hamburger once in a while."
After the President's long answer, Martin pressed him further on Shake Shack, wanting to know if Mrs. Obama had ordered the sweet potato fries or the regular fries.
"You know, she likes both, actually," President Obama said, and added "and you should try them in the White House, too, because sometimes we make them, and they're outstanding."
"We're sweet potato lovers," Mrs. Obama announced last Fall, as she harvested four-pounders from her White House Kitchen Garden.
A birthday burger for the "cute" President?
To wrap up the interview, Martin asked how both the President and Mrs. Obama feel about the President's big half-century birthday.
"You know, I feel real good about 5-0. The – obviously, I've gotten a little grayer since I took this job but otherwise, I feel pretty good," President Obama said. "And Michelle, you know, says that, you know, she – she — she still thinks I'm, I'm cute, you know. And I guess that's — that's all that matters, isn't it?"
When asked by Martin what special gift he'd like, President Obama said a hamburger might be a nice idea.
"You know, maybe I'll have a good hamburger on my birthday," President Obama said, though the meaty wish came after the President noted that the best present of all would be a debt ceiling deal with Congress.
"That's kind of sad, I know," the President admitted.
Edited versions of the President's NPR interview first appeared on July 22.
*Top and Shake Shack photo by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama; Five Guys photo by Chuck Kennedy/White House; last photo by Pete Souza/White House