Taken at face value, there may not seem like much to object to in a recent tweet from Ivanka Trump extolling the importance of encouraging physical fitness among kids. But as retired Gen. Mark Hertling tweeted, Ivanka Trump's father hasn't prioritized "healthy lifestyles" for children by not filling certain key positions in relevant departments.
Ivanka originally tweeted the need to "promote healthy lifestyles for America's youth," referencing a survey that showed 9.5 million kids hadn't been involved in any physical sports or organized activities over the past year. In response, Hertling had some thoughts to share with the first daughter. A military analyst for CNN, Hertling spent 37 years in the Army before reentering civilian life. Quoting Ivanka's tweet, Hertling responded in part:
Ummm...there’s this thing called the President’s Council on Fitness, Sport, and Nutrition. Been around 60 years. Used to have 25 appointees.
He noted his own previous role in the organization, as well as former First Lady Michelle Obama's. Hertling then observed wryly, "No one is on the council now" before giving the Twitter handle @FitnessGov and recommending Ivanka "Check it out."
The cause most associated with Michelle Obama is the "Let's Move" campaign, designed to do exactly what Ivanka expressed in her tweet, with the literal tagline "America's Move To Raise a Healthier Generation of Kids."
Hertling wasn't quite done, though. In a followup tweet, he writes, "One more thing...it falls under
@HHSGov Ask their Secretary...oh, never mind." It's an apparent dig at the leadership crises over at the Health and Human Services (HHS) department as well.
Trump's original nominee to head the department was Tom Price, a former congressman from Georgia whose short tenure at the department was marked by travel scandal. In its detailed analysis of the events leading up to Price's resignation in September 2017, Politico highlights the expensive flights Price took — sometimes with his wife — that often had questionable relevance to his official government work.
Price came under fire for chartering private jets and flying via military plane to the tune of $1 million in taxpayer money by May 2017 — just a few months into his job. Price had also advocated for a 15 percent cut to the Department of Health and Human Services' travel budget.
Oh, and Price was also a big critic of Obamacare. That might have played into part of Hertling's tweet, since it would probably be harder to promote healthy children when health care itself isn't a government priority.
Since Price put in his resignation, Trump has appointed a new HHS secretary — Alex Azar. He was confirmed in January on a mostly partisan-line vote in the Senate. It's not Azar's first stint at the agency either, as he was an appointee there under President George W. Bush as well.
As Amy Goldstein reports at the Washington Post, several Democratic senators opposed Azar based on his work in the private sector with pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. During Azar's time as an executive there, Eli Lilly raised its drug prices many times. That would seem to put Azar at odds with one of his stated primary goals as HHS secretary — bringing the cost of prescription medications down to more affordable levels.
The Department of Health and Human Services has an enormous budget of about $1 trillion, representing one-fourth of the entire federal budget. As such, it may strike some as odd that positions on the President's Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition have not been filled.
Clearly, in Hertling's estimation, part of the problem hindering the promotion of healthy lifestyles among kids is either real or pretend ignorance on the part of the Trump administration — and he's not having any of it.
Correction: A previous version of this story mischaracterized the HHS travel budget. It has been updated to accurately reflect the cuts Price proposed.