Ever since Governor Chris Christie put his toes into the presidential waters, the issue of his "heft" has moved front and center. The New York Times Sunday Review put this story on its cover, so you know the story is big (no pun intended).
Gov. Christie's weight clearly is generating a lot of emotion. In his Washington Post column, Eugene Robinson wrote that Gov. Christie should "eat a salad and take a walk." Robinson was drawing a parallel between lifestyle management skills and the ability to lead. He's suggesting that Crisitie's weight problem reflects a lack of self-control implying a problem with his leadership skills. He's not the only person suggesting that the Governor's size is worthy of discussion.
It all comes down to one politically-incorrect question: Should a fat guy be president? Not an overweight person, not an obese person, not a person with an over-eating disorder. No, all of us are thinking about this in the same way -- fat guy, yes or no?
Is this fair to Chris Christie? Of course not. Does his weight really reflect his ability to lead? No, it doesn't. He's a smart guy -- smarter than most of the other Republican candidates -- and he doesn't sound like a nut. That said, it's just impossible to ignore the fat guy thing. The health issues surrounding his weight have already surfaced once. It would not be surprising if they surfaced again.
But beyond the health and aesthetics of any person running for the presidency, we all need to be reminded again and again that the obesity epidemic -- especially in children -- is singularly the most critical issue our country faces today. Perhaps inadvertently, Gov. Christie's interest in the Oval Office may focus attention on this crisis, one that for the most part remains subliminal, but will eventually result in a tsunami-like flood of degenerative diseases that will overwhelm our health care system. Every weight related illness -- hypertension, type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, etc. -- is going to show up in younger and younger adults. Everyone knows this, but no one knows quite what to do.
So, if nothing else, maybe Chris Christie's weight problem may help to bring this conversation about the health of our children back into focus for the moment. And if he decides to run and wins the election, would it reinforce poor lifestyle management as being okay? Would kids think to themselves: If the President does it, then why can't I? I don't have the answer to that. But one thing I know for sure, it certainly wouldn't help.