Here on Ricochet, we’ve had a few conversations about politicians’ looks, and whether those looks are presidential. Tommy De Seno’s wife, for instance, just doesn’t think Paul Ryan “looks like a President.” Pat Sajak thinks Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush all looked the part, but that Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, and Al Gore simply didn’t.
Whenever this topic comes up, Chris Christie’s weight inevitably surfaces in conversation. I get the sense that most here don’t consider Christie’s obesity a liability, and some might even consider it a net plus. For example, Scott Reusser says that, “for me, somehow it seems to add to his oh-what-the-hell-I’m-just-going-to-tell-it-like-it-is image.”
But mark Bloomberg columnist Michael Kinsley down in the camp that thinks fat is bad. Very, very bad.
Look, I’m sorry, but New Jersey Governor Chris Christie cannot be president: He is just too fat. Maybe, if he runs for president and we get to know him, we will overlook this awkward issue because we are so impressed with the way he stands up to teachers’ unions. But we shouldn’t overlook it — unless he goes on a diet and shows he can stick to it.
…Too many Americans may be heavy, but they don’t define themselves by that condition (at least not in a positive way) or automatically bond with fellow overeaters. Republicans insist that raising taxes on the rich is bad politics because most Americans hope to be rich eventually. Most overweight people hope to be thin eventually. So appealing to them in this way may not work.
…Unfortunately, the symbolism of Christie’s weight problem goes way past the issue of obesity itself. It 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. We don’t yet know much about Chris Christie. He certainly makes all the right noises about fiscal discipline and seems to have done well so far as governor of New Jersey. Perhaps Christie is the one to help us get our national appetites under control. But it would help if he got his own under control first.
The question is not whether the opinion Kinsley puts forth is stupid. That anyone would dismiss a candidate solely on the basis of his weight is stupid, insulting, petty, shallow, and then some. The question is: do enough people hold the view that obesity is intolerable in a Chief Executive for it to matter for Christie’s hypothetical WH bid?