The Ticket

Is Chris Christie too fat to be president?

Holly Bailey
The Ticket

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Christie and Obama in September (Charles Dharapak/AP)

Amid more rumors that Chris Christie is considering running for the Republican nomination for president in 2012, the New Jersey governor is facing renewed scrutiny on a topic that has been discussed throughout his political career: Is he too fat?

In a new Bloomberg View column, Michael Kinsley bluntly says the New Jersey governor is too obese for the Oval Office:

Look, I'm sorry, but New Jersey Gov. 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.

Kinsley admits his position is "discriminatory," "patronizing" and "coercive"—but, he insists, those who ascend to the presidency should be setting a good example for the rest of the country. While he praises Christie's push for "fiscal discipline," Kinsley says the governor's weight is a sign of a lack of personal discipline.

"Perhaps Christie is the one to help us get our national appetites under control," Kinsley writes. "But it would help if he got his own under control first."

Atul Gawande, a surgeon who is a staff writer for the New Yorker, took to Twitter to defend Christie against Kinsley's column. "There's no evidence that skinny presidents are better or worse that fat ones," Gawande wrote.

In a separate message, Gawande added, "Self-discipline does affect weight, but being non-obese isn't evidence one's self-discipline is stronger."

Kinsley isn't the only pundit questioning Christie's character. The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson wrote Friday that Christie's weight—or his "big problem," as the headline put it-- is as legitimate an issue as President Barack Obama's smoking habit (which the White House says the president has beaten).

"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," Robinson wrote.

He offered Christie what he admits is unsolicited advice: "Eat a salad and take a walk."

Business Insider's Henry Blodget says Christie's weight is an "obvious clash between the austerity and discipline message" the governor preaches and the "tough personal choices that Christie himself seems to make." But, he added, there's also a question of simple health.

"The practical issue is that Christie looks like he might have a heart attack at any minute, which is not a quality you really want in a president (or you also have to think seriously about who you're electing as vice president)," Blodget writes, adding he's "not trying to be rude."

At The New Republic, Timothy Noah raised the ante, inviting readers to write in and guess the governor's weight.

And on Twitter, Politico columnist Roger Simon published a photo of Christie standing next to Obama and added two words of analysis: "Game over."

One of Christie's political opponents once tried to use his size against him. Back in 2009, the Democratic governor Jon Corzine ran a series of ads featuring most unflattering photos of Christie. One spot featured a slow-motion shot of Christie exiting a vehicle, his girth moving slowly in several different directions at once. The ad's narrator said Christie "threw his weight around" as a federal prosecutor to get himself special treatment.

Corzine denied he was playing the "fat card"—but I wrote in 2009, the charges came as Corzine stepped up his own physical fitness routine, inviting the news media to shoot photos of him jogging.

Christie laughed off Corzine's ads--and defeated Corzine in the election--but he has admitted to a "long-term struggle" with his weight. In April, he told ABC's Diane Sawyer he was dieting and was working with a trainer several times a week because he knew that he had do something to improve his physical health.

"I have to get healthier, and this job has really forced me, because it's such a draining job," he said.

The governor has told reporters he's lost weight, though he declined to say exactly how much.

In July, Christie was rushed to the hospital after a severe asthma attack, an incident that raised questions about his health and has gained more notice amid suggestions that Christie could jump into the race for the White House.

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