The darling of all Republicans not enthralled with Romney, Perry, Bachmann or any other declared candidate is New Jersey Governor Christopher James (“Chris”) Christie, still a non-candidate. Unfortunately, the governor has a big problem. If the next debate in the race for the GOP nomination were held in a boxing ring, the announcer might introduce him as follows: “In this corner, standing 5-foot-11 and weighing nearly 300 pounds, the outspoken/ tough-talkin/union bustin/budget slashing/deficit reducin Crusher Cracker Chris Christie.” And the crowd would go wild as Crusher Cracker wobbled around the ring, feigning haymakers and body blows. What a spectacle that would be.
Suddenly, it seems BMI has gone from a medical to a political issue, at least since Mr. Christie started acting less enthusiastic about NOT heeding the call of the conservative faithful to enter “the ring,” so to speak. Pundits and columnists have devoted a lot of attention to his physical fitness for office, thereby making body size the focus of the should he run debate.
Thus, it seems time for someone in the wellness business to address the question: Is this fair, appropriate, sensible or wise?
Volunteering for the role, I say NO! If the office of president were only a ceremonial affair, if it were not the most important job on the planet, I might not take this position. But it is an astoundingly difficult job that requires a talented man or woman who possesses a range of remarkable qualities, such as high intelligence, sound judgment, a superb education, a commitment to democratic ideals, an ability to work with diverse interests, a concern for all Americans, a calm disposition, integrity, a capacity for effective self-management and humanistic values – for starters. Better the voters should care if a candidate is well endowed – with characteristics such as those noted above, than if he/she is over-endowed with adipose tissue.
Besides, a fat candidate committed to the policies I favor (a topic for another day) could always make wellness lifestyle education a campaign promise, at least for others if not himself.
Getting back to Mr. Christie, a few words about what his worst body size detractors are saying. Michael Kinsley, writing on Bloomburg.com, took this position: Christie cannot be president unless he goes on a diet and shows he can stick to it. (“Requiem for a Governor Before He’s in the Ring: Michael Kinsley,” September 29, 2011.) Kinsley believes “a presidential candidate should be judged on behavior and character, not just on policies.” This is pretty sensible. Americans should expect Christie to thin down “because the obesity epidemic is real and dangerous and the president inevitably sets an example. It (Christie’s weight problem) is just a too – perfect symbol of our country at the moment, with appetites out of control and discipline near zilch. And it’s not just symbolism.”
Behavior and character – well, of course that should be taken into primary account but there is much more to behavior and character than weight control, such as allegiance to all the common decencies.
Others pile on, concluding that Christie’s size puts him in a class the NIH terms “extremely obese.” Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post wonders whether Governor Christie could get our national appetites under control, since “he hasn’t gotten his own under control first.” (See Eugene Robinson, “Chris Christie’s Big Problem,” Washington Post, September 29, 2011.)
A few things these pundits ought to consider.
* Is obesity manageable in all cases or is it beyond the control of some people (e.g., driven largely by genetics and cultures)?
* Is it an addiction and, if so, do we want to penalize afflictions?
* Do the hazards associated with obesity render a fat candidate a poor risk to keep the pace of the office and finish a four-year commitment? How serious are such obesity-related dangers, such as Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, certain types of cancer, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, gallbladder and liver disease? (All are in play with obesity, according to the National Institutes of Health.)
* Could Christie lose weight if he wanted to, which he says he desires very much? (The best explanation for the existence of a $60-billion diet and weight-loss industry in this country is that only 5% of those trying to lose weight manage to do so over the long term.
Again, it seems to me what one stands for matters vastly more than what one weighs. An interest in promoting wellness-related policies would count more in assessing a candidate for president, in my view, than whether he/she has personally succeeded in doing so. Yes, ideally every presidential candidates should be a model of a perfect modern major wellness general – and I’d be really impressed if he or she read my books, subscribed to the AWR, played the High Level Wellness Card Game and attended my lectures. But, at minimum all fat (and thin and “just right for now”) types should vigorously exercise daily, eat wisely (mostly plants, grains and fruit) and so on. It’s enough for me if Christie pledges simply to try to make better choices. This matters more than whether the candidate has managed so well up till now. In other words, my focus is on the national issues, not body tissues – and a candidate’s strength of priorities, not his weaknesses for calories.
In my opinion, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is not too fat to be president – he’s too conservative to be president.
Compared with the rest of the Republican field, with the exception of Jon Huntsman, all Republicans are all too conservative (i.e., too religious, too fond of guns, too oriented to the rich, too mean-spirited about gays, too insensitive to the poor and too supportive of nearly everything I dislike about the country’s direction and too neglectful of what I value about America).
Huntsman’s not fat, but I’d vote for him among the Republicans if he were half as tall and twice as heavy as Governor Christie.