Eugene Robinson, a Washington Post columnist of somewhat left-wing bent, last Friday wrote about New Jersey governor Christ Christie:
Whether or not he lets himself be persuaded to run for president, Chris Christie needs to find some way to lose weight. Like everyone else, elected officials perform best when they are in optimal health. Christie obviously is not.
You could argue that this is none of my business, but I disagree. Christie’s problem with weight ceased being a private matter when he stepped into the public arena — and it’s not something you can fail to notice.
Robinson goes on to discuss the so-called obesity epidemic in the nation and why it is necessary for our leaders to practice healthful habits and present a hale and hardy image. He concludes his column
Politically, I disagree with Christie on almost everything. I’ll have plenty of opportunities to tell him why. Today, I’d just like to offer him a bit of unsolicited, nonpartisan, sincere advice: Eat a salad and take a walk.
Robinson’s column is here
As he does with Governor Christie, I disagree with Mr. Robinson on almost everything. I do agree, however, that a Presidential candidate’s health (as well as that of an incumbent) is a matter of public concern. There is no doubt that obesity, like smoking and many other conditions, are detrimental to health and this is a negative for a President. When the Presidency was less demanding, those like T. Roosevelt, Taft, Cleveland and others could get could get away with being obese. But health isn’t the only issue in that regard. In previous eras, when widespread publishing of celebrity and politician images was difficult and expensive, few people ever saw anything but a head and shoulders photo of a candidate. And in earlier times, when food was scarce and expensive, a hefty girth was a sign of success and competence. No more. As Wall Street Journal writer Daniel Henninger recently put it, we have an American Idol method of selecting a President. This dictates that a candidate be physically attractive, and those of corpulent size are not in today’s America. No one will say this out loud on the campaign trail, but it would be the elephant in every room. Every President since the television era came into full swing, except perhaps accidental President Lyndon Johnson, as possessed at least supporting actor looks (Yes, yes, Nixon was Darth Vader, but he wasn’t Jabba the Hutt) Whether this a good thing is beside the point. We humans rely primarily on our sense of sight for perception. What looks good is presumed good. Evil is ugly; good is beautiful; and elections are really beauty contests. Until this changes, a candidate will have to be attractive to stand a real chance, particularly if the opponent is.
This is not to denigrate Governor Christie in any way. He is on my short list of acceptable candidates. He has some good ideas and is also acceptable to those across the great center, but without some of Mitt Romney’s baggage. My point is, so long as our politics are shallow, we need to consider where the reefs and shoals are and figure how to navigate around them.
For a blog entry at the Post critical of Robinson see Jennifer Rubin at here
Or, Julius Caesar:
Let me have men about me that are fat,
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep a-nights.
Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look,
He thinks too much; such men are dangerous.