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Chris Christie raises the big-guy-in-a-big-job question

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie jokes during a

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie jokes during a large town hall gathering in East Hanover, N.J. (May 16, 2012) Credit: AP

I think we can all agree there’s no way a person who weights 1,000 pounds could be elected president of the United States. It may be sizeism, but anyone tipping the scales at half a ton has as much chance of scoring a four-year residency at the White House as Charles Manson — and if Chuck has a good grasp of the economic fundamentals, I’d probably give him the edge.

Let’s go a bit further. Could a 900-pound person win a presidential election? No way. I don’t think it’s possible at 500 either, and admit it, neither do you.

So the question isn’t whether a person can be too fat to be president. If there’s a reality show pretty much based entirely on what you eat and how you manage normal human functions, you’re too large to ever be a fit for the Oval Office.

The question is where the line lies.

And size could be an enormous issue in 2016, when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie may seek the office.

Please understand, I’ve struggled with weight all my life. More than once I’ve woken in a puddle of Coca Cola Classic, Doritos Cool Ranch chip fragments plastered to my body. As I write this, sequestered in a hotel room in Florida at the front end of a two-week political convention-induced snacking spree, I’m playing the vending machines like they’re slots, and winning every spin. Currently about 30 pounds north of cuddly, I know staying trim isn’t easy. Actually, all I know is that getting trim isn’t easy. I’ve never had the opportunity to “stay” trim.

But I’ve also never been more than 50 pounds overweight, which means that while folks may have judged me chubby, I’ve never been round enough to seem like I’m a full-blown resident of Crazytown. And that’s what lots of us think when we see truly enormous people: that they’ve gone beyond the land of laziness and poor eating choices and emerged into weak-kneed lunacy.

Chris Christie, who will give the keynote address at the Republican National Convention Tuesday, would have a lot to offer as a presidential candidate. Even this year, his fans pestered him into a highly aggravated state (which admittedly isn’t too hard) with their pleas that he run.

He’s tough, fiscally conservative, aggressive, and the governor of a big, generally Democratic leaning state. He’s lowered taxes and spending, and as a federal prosecutor had tremendous success stamping out corruption. Corruption can’t be defeated, but it’s always a positive when someone stamps it a bit.

On the political downside, for the Republican base, he’s also a little weak on pro-life credentials, stands up for green energy over off-shore drilling, and put a Muslim on the judicial bench.

As far as his weight, Christie won’t talk numbers, but he definitely appears to have grown over the past few years. He was hospitalized for asthma last July and freely admits his weight exacerbated the condition. He says he’s trying to work out more and control what he eats. And he’s shown a certain playful acceptance toward the jokes he’s the butt of (particularly the butt jokes).

Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine made a not-subtle issue of Christie's weight in 2009 when the two faced off for New Jersey’s top job, but it didn't work, particularly because many saw it as mean-spirited. It was probably a stupid move on Corzine's part, generating sympathy for Christie and making himself look like a bully by pointing out something everyone knew: His opponent was a big boy.

I have no idea whether Christie is too fat to be elected president, or whether he’s big enough, in a nation where two-thirds of us are overweight, for his size to be so out of whack that it sways votes. My guess is that he’s pretty close to the line. And as Christie’s national prominence increases, it’s ridiculous to act as if such a line doesn’t exist.