I don’t like New Jersey governor Chris Christie or his politics and didn’t ever expect to find myself in the position of defending him. However, I was offended by a number of articles I read recently that said he should not run for president. Their reason? Because of his weight.
According to Eugene Robinson, opinion writer for the Washington Post, “Christie’s problem with weight ceased being a private matter when he stepped into the public arena.” Robinson cites all sorts of statistics on the “obesity epidemic” sweeping the United States and the burden it’s putting on us all. Robinson calls into question Christie’s ability to govern, suggesting his weight is a moral impediment to leadership, saying that
[Christie] prides himself on bullheaded determination and speaks often about the need for officials to display leadership. Well, Gov. Christie, lead thyself.
Michael Kinsley of Bloomberg.com is even worse, stating bluntly that Christie can’t be president because “he is too fat.” He claims that Christie’s weight is a personal defect even more important than his ability to govern because
a presidential candidate should be judged on behavior and character, not just on policies — especially because the chance these days of any actual policies being enacted is slim.
Terrific. In other words, since politicians are completely ineffectual, they should at least look good on television.
While Kinsley on the one hand states the “obesity epidemic is real,” on the other he claims that
Christie shouldn’t appeal to the public at large because claiming that being seriously overweight establishes some kind of bond with ordinary folks is a bit of an insult to ordinary folks, most of whom are not obese.
So which is it? Are we all fat and looking for a leader who looks like us? Or is Christie an aberration from the general public that should be shunned and rejected? Most of all, why is the “fat” versus the “thin” even an issue rather than the political?
It’s frightening to me that this is an issue. And that people seem so divided on it. On Crain’s New York’s Business website, a survey was presented to the public at large. At the time, I’m writing this, 57% (285 votes) of the voters believe that Christie’s weight should not be considered an impediment to running for office. The remaining 43% (215) votes are too close for comfort.
This discriminatory mindset trickles downward. I once had a family member tell me I should lose weight because prospective employers would look at me and not want to hire me. The comment still hurts. Of course, some of the weight (admittedly not all) was due to the long, sedentary hours I was working. Which is not meant as an excuse, but an argument against the fact that the overweight are lazy, unmotivated and generally not worthy of being hired.
While I’ve been focusing on women’s body image issues and discrimination, the Chris Christie situation drives home the fact that men too are being unfairly judged.
The fact that I’m defending Christie is shocking to me. Because frankly, I hate Christie and think his politics suck. But his crappy politics should be the issue, not his weight.