Talk of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's weight is nothing new. On her annual 10 Most Fascinating People year-end special, Barbara Walters decided to address the (pardon the pun) elephant in the room. Christie is obese, and with the possibility that he will make a presidential bid for 2016, Republicans need to ask themselves if they are ready to support and elect a man who tips the scale at well over 300 pounds. While this may seem an outlandish concern, it is valid: the last obese president to hold office was William Howard Taft, almost 100 years ago.
Preface of Praise
Now, Chris Christie's weight does not make him a bad person. In fact, I've found very admirable characteristics in Christie. For one thing, he's a straightforward, tell-it-like-it-is politician he doesn't stumble around questions or sugarcoat his sentiments; actually, the American political arena needs more leaders who are willing to tactfully speak their minds. Additionally, Christie was quite the hero during the weeks following the Hurricane Sandy devastation. He exhibited genuine and sincere appreciation for President Obama's visit to assess the damage, further demonstrating he's not always a politician, just a compassionate person.
Precedent for President
Considering Obama is known for playing basketball, George W. Bush was known for working out six times a week, and Bill Clinton (who, to be fair, did not become skinny until he switched to a vegan diet for health reasons after leaving office) was known for his morning jogs around the South Lawn, nominating Chris Christie for president would undermine the positive physical image of Obama and his two predecessors as physically fit presidents. Meanwhile, Michelle Obama has dedicated her role as First Lady to encouraging Americans to live healthier, more active lifestyles. Furthermore, as a nation we are supposed to be making advancements in medicine and building financial and militaristic strength, so it would be adverse to spotlight a political figure who's helping fuel the obesity epidemic, a problem we are trying to fight.
See Something, Do Something
Accepting a presidential nomination and running a campaign are mentally and physically demanding commitments and at this point, Christie's body is likely not ready for the grueling obligations. In the summer of 2011, Christie was hospitalized for an asthma attack that was partially caused by his obesity. He even admitted to Diane Sawyer that his job is draining and one of the reasons he is tired is because he is too overweight.
A Lyric to Think About
Opponents of my aforementioned reasoning would argue that Christie's weight has nothing to do with his ability to lead a nation. They would also argue that he already governs New Jersey with perfect capability. Perhaps Lauryn Hill's line in the song "Doo-Wop (That Thing)" explains my concern: How you gonna win, when you ain't right within? Doesn't the American electorate want to know that their presidential candidates are mentally and physically sound? Isn't that why we scrutinize a politician's financial records, health records, social connections, and schooling? It may be symbolic but a president cannot successfully lead a nation when he has such a severe issue of his own. And it may not even be Christie's health issue itself that people have a problem with. His popularity come election season may be largely based on the mere stigma associated with being fat. Americans typically view overweight individuals as slow, lazy, and even careless.
Don't Lose Hope, Christie
If Christie runs for president, there will be those indifferent to his weight, some will support him because of his valor during Hurricane Sandy, some will support him because he's a Republican, some may support him because he is a man. Chris Christie has time to lose weight and prove that he has the discipline and drive to make such a big change in his life. For now though, it just wouldn't make sense to showcase a man contributing to an embarrassing national epidemic. Here's a thought: President Obama started smoking in college and kicked the habit during his first term. Reports say he still smokes occasionally but for the most part he has quit. Mr. Christie, I understand Rome wasn't built in a day, but we are going to need to see some change before 2016.