Chris Christie Fat Comments Are Really Character Judgments

The New Jersey governor's weight and health should ultimately matter more to him than to anyone else.

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Gov. Chris Christie speaks at a news conference at New Jersey's State House Jan. 2, 2013, in Trenton, N.J. Christie blasted his party's "toxic internal politics" after House Republicans initially declined to approve disaster relief for victims of Superstorm Sandy.
Gov. Chris Christie speaks at a news conference at New Jersey's State House Jan. 2, 2013, in Trenton, N.J. Christie blasted his party's "toxic internal politics" after House Republicans initially declined to approve disaster relief for victims of Superstorm Sandy.

Chris Christie is fat, and he knows it. So why do people think they need to tell him?

An Arizona doctor (and former White House physician) took it upon herself to observe that the New Jersey governor is very overweight. This is the sort of diagnosis or observation that routinely qualified a news story for inclusion in the "Sherlock" file informally kept at a newspaper where I once worked. These were, well, stories that wouldn't take the mind of supersleuth Sherlock Holmes to figure out.

The doctor, Connie Mariano, told CNN that Christie, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, was too fat and unhealthy. "It's almost a like a time bomb waiting to happen unless he addresses those issues before running for office," she said.

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That's presumptuous for starters. Only Christie's own physician can say what sort of health dangers the governor faces—and being of optimum weight is certainly no guarantee that a president won't have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart disease—let alone being felled by an assassin's bullet. Yes, being very overweight is not considered good for one's overall health. But health isn't really what this is about. It's about a judgment that fat people are by definition lazy or undisciplined. Fat masquerades as a health issue in politics, but it's at heart a character issue for people who think it's their business to weigh in on other people's body size.

Christie, in typical outsized personality form, responded as he should have—not with shame and apology, but with a mind-your-own-business message, saying:

My children saw that [comment that Christie could die early]. I find it fascinating that a doctor in Arizona who has never met me, never examined me, never reviewed my medical history or records, knows nothing about my family history, could make a diagnosis from 2,400 miles away. She must be a genius.

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Mariano, he said, is "just another hack who wants five minutes on TV."

It's remarkable how many people think it's perfectly acceptable to give unsolicited health advice to strangers. They'll say to an overweight person reaching for a doughnut, "Do you really think you need that?" Probably not—but the sweets-eater also probably isn't blind or stupid, knows he or she is overweight, and knows that the doughnut doesn't act as a weight-loss aid. The fact that Mariano is a doctor gives her more medical authority in making a grossly obvious observation, but it doesn't make her less of a bully. And where has the national nannying gotten us? Two thirds of the country is overweight, and half of that group is obese.

Christie's weight and health ultimately matters more to him than to anyone else. The fact that he's a prominent politician doesn't make his body public property.