The Big Man
Copyright © by Len Holman, 12/8/13
The Governor of New Jersey is a big man. Chris Christie is the Big
Man on the talk-show campus. He is, in every poll of Republican voters,
far ahead of Rand Paul, who appeals to the hard right of Tea Party folk and
others who ride motorcycles and have skulls embroidered on their black jackets.
He is head of the Governor’s Conference, and he is spoken of by the GOP as the
Second Coming of fiscal and moral sanity. He is also very corpulent.
Not as corpulent as our largest President, Grover Cleveland, who was about 350
pounds, and—by all accounts—very agile and light-footed. Christie
walks like a man carrying a safe full of bricks and with his jacket off, he made
Mitt Romney chuckle and decide not to ask Chris to be his VP nominee. But
is this obvious weight a problem for Christie or is it an asset?
If Christie becomes the GOP nominee for President in 2016 (not a
forgone conclusion, by any means), the idea is that his weight struggles will
endear him to a voting populace quickly becoming overweight and still ignoring
the calorie counts on those fast food menus. He has had lap-band surgery
and claims to be changing his eating habits. In October, Christie’s
doctor declared him to have had “normal blood work, normal cardiovascular test
results and good functional capacity.” The good doctor also asserted
that the governor was fit to serve as the chief executive of New Jersey, a
not-too-subtle hint that he is also fit to be President of the U.S.
Right now, he is the putative front-runner for the GOP nomination, which
means, the talking heads, the polls, and those who find his name easy to spell,
talk a lot about it. There is, waiting in the wings, Scott Walker, the
governor of Wisconsin who fought the unions and is a fiscal and social
conservative, and who has not recently hugged Barack Obama, which might weigh
heavily with voters. One of the theories bruited about concerns the idea
that Christie is—to a potential GOP voter—“one of us.” He
struggles with his weight, he admits he’s struggling, he keeps a good humor
about it all, he works on reducing his size, and he seems unself-conscious about
his girth. He is a man of an overweight people, who will love him for his
humanness and in-your-face attitude. He must not, the experts warn, play
the victim, but instead acknowledge and accept criticism of his size and deal
with it all.
Recall the Mitt was NOT perceived as a man of the people (except that one
percent), and that our current president beat Romney by ten percentage points on
the question of which candidate was “more in touch with people like you.”
So, the thinking (if that’s what we can call it) is that if a black man can
connect with 35 million non-white voters, a fat man can do the same with
overweight voters. This can only, logically lead to one thing: a
cloned presidential candidate who is a cross dresser, left-handed, heavy (but
has Richard Simmons CDs in his collection), the national average in height,
swarthy (a little white a little something not white), a sports fan, former
member of a union, and….well, you can see where this leads: the dreaded
“identity politics,” currently ravaged by Fox News and other like-minded
outlets. It is truly amazing that such a minor thing (as far as the
qualifications for a president go) as weight would sway more than a handful of
people at Mickey D’s waiting for something super-sized.
Even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say 70 percent
of us are overweight, is this reason enough to elect Christie as president?
The “he’s one of us” theme doesn’t work for me. To even get to the
nomination stage, a person must have rubbed elbows with elite movers and
shakers, raised tons of money, lived within the confines of “Government,”
had his clothes pressed and shoes shined by someone else, had his (or her)
appointments made by at least one assistant (with that person having at least
one assistant—with no post-it notes stuck on a refrigerator), and who probably
doesn’t go to Home Depot and wander helplessly through the cavernous
place looking for something she finally finds out they don’t even have.
Does Christie order his own pizza (veggies only, of course)? The people
who have political office aspirations don’t get very far unless they leave the
world of the “normal,” the atmosphere of the regular, and begin their ascent
into the stratosphere of the privileged. That’s money, power, isolation,
and the beginnings of a loss of memory of that little childhood farmhouse in
Maine or those surfboarding days of carefree California youth or that small farm
of yore with the skittish, thin horses and porridge for supper. They
forget all that and when the time comes, when that urge strikes, when those
“investors” in political careers start showing interest, these would-be
politicians are no more “one of us” than—as Mark Twain wrote—lightning
is like a lightning bug. They then have to “remember” those days for
the benefit of the media and proclaim, thereby, their “regular person”
Christie’s weight and his battle dealing with it don’t make him, just by definition, anyone I would vote for. Will he connect with the common man, that voter out there looking for a job, trying to keep her house, trying to put food on the table every night, trying to keep the family’s children safe in a bad neighborhood? I have my doubts. Won’t his record as governor of New Jersey count for anything? Won’t his record on employment, crime, and opportunity weigh more heavily than he does? Christie is a big man now, but is he as big as Mandela will always be? 2016 is still a way off, and by then Christie could shed more than a few pounds. He could lose his present aura of growing inevitability.
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