As the Arizona and Michigan presidential primaries arrive, the final four Republican candidates continue their slash-and-burn tactics as they vie to take on President Obama in the fall. With former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum rising as the dominant conservative alternative to ex-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, there is a growing angst within the corridors of Republican power that the current crop of candidates may be sealing the eventual nominee’s fate by the negative onslaught they have waged against one another in the endless debates process. As such, the hope for a white knight to come riding to the rescue before the political landscape resembles Mad Max territory has surfaced more fervently than ever.
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush has categorically declared that he has no intention of offering his services if the convention in Tampa becomes either brokered or disputed. He’s not even sure he’d be considered a Republican anymore, so far has the party drifted to the right. And ex-Arkansas governor and 2008 presidential contender Mike Huckabee recently lamented to Israeli TV that the toxic atmosphere of this year’s nomination process has soured any desire he might have had to consider stepping into the white knight’s role, as well.
The one name, however, that looms largest in Repub circles as the party’s potential savior is New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who was the selection of 32% of the party faithful in a recent Quinnipiac poll asking who would be the best alternative to the current lineup of Romney, Santorum, Gingrich or Paul in a brokered convention. `08 Veep candidate Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor, tied for second choice at 20% with Jeb Bush.
But despite Governor Christie’s evident charisma and charm – and likability across party lines – what is equaly evident is his sheer bulk. The elephant in the room is the elephant that Christie has allowed himself to become. At what must be 300 pounds-plus, Governor Christie is morbidly obese. And since the USA is already seen on the world stage as an indulgent, overly consumptive nation, how exactly would a Christie nomination – whether for the top spot or as a possible Romney VP choice – look? After all, what is the job of the vice-president except to be ready in case the president is incapacitated? His number one job is to be ready and fit for office. Mr. Christie isn’t fit enough to walk up the stairs to the east portico.
Obesity has become the nation’s #1 health issue, and with two-thirds of our adult population now considered overweight the ripple effect will cause a drag on the economy, health services, insurance, education, national productivity, the list goes on and on. At age 49 Christie has already had at least one health scare following an asthma attack last summer that required a trip to the hospital. Like so many other ailments, asthma is made worst by obesity.
“This isn’t a party issue,” one fitness trainer told me. “This is a health issue. What does it say when the man has no regard for his own health? He has four children. This doesn’t just affect him. And now you want to be a leader? Are you kidding?”
Besides, with childhood obesity being such a chronic health problem in the nation, what would be the message of sending Mr. Christie into national office? “He is a very smart, able man who doesn’t have the discipline to not eat himself into a state of morbid obesity, but we want you kids to do the right thing, OK?” Yet last fall the Maryland-based Obesity Society refused to take issue with the governor’s weight problem.
“The Obesity Society takes no position on Governor Christie’s political philosophy or record in office,” their statement read. “We do take the strongest exception, however, to assumptions about his suitability for office based on his weight.
“A person’s body weight provides no indication of an indivdual’s character, credentials, talents, leadership, or contributions to society. To suggest that Governor Christie’s body weight discounts and discredits his ability to be an effective political candidate is inappropriate, unjust and wrong.”
It’s true that size, alone, is not the sole indicator of good health. But if you’re not around, you can hardly be an effective leader. Don’t get me wrong, President Obama hasn’t been any better a role model as a closet smoker, but at least we didn’t see him lighting up. You can’t hide Chris Christie. Even Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, the uber-health nut on the left, never deems fit to question the governor on his girth when he comes on her show. We’re not talking carrying a few extra pounds. This is a heart attack waiting to happen. It is a total dismissal of his number one priority to himself and his family. Running for office ought to be the last item on his agenda. Walking and eating toward a healthy future should be #1.
Mike Huckabee was in a similar situation a decade ago. But he took control of his life, began an exercise regime, and lost over 100 pounds, and, has, for the most part, kept the weight in check. Somehow, though, it hasn’t registered strongly enough with Governor Christie. What’s closer to the truth is he just lacks the personal discipline to push away from the table, which is especially odd coming from the Republican side of the aisle, since personal responsibility and family values are the cornerstones of their belief system. And doesn’t it all just tie too nicely into the whole idea of the U.S. larding on $15 trillion in national debt, because we don’t have the discipline to do something about that, either? How does having a morbidly obese leader play into that? Chris Christie would be the poster-child for the world’s opinion of what we’ve become. Do what I say, not as I do.
When asked, Mr. Christie should acknowledge his problem, defer from running for national office because of it. Then say he’ll use the time from now to 2016 to turn his own health around, and champion the cause for the nation and its children as he does. Now that would be leadership.