So it turns out Chris Christie is fat.
If, somehow, that fact had escaped you before, surely it came slamming home last week after he appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman. There was the 50-year-old governor of New Jersey jokingly snacking on a doughnut as the talk-show host — who has taken a jab or two at Christie’s weight — gently asked him about his girth. The bit was in keeping with how Christie usually deals with weight-related humor. He seems to feel the best defense is a good fat joke.
The laughter curdled the following day, however, as Dr. Connie Mariano, a former White House physician, told CNN that Christie is a “time bomb” who, if elected, might die in office. Christie exploded, calling her “completely irresponsible,” and a “hack,” and told her to “shut up” about his health. After that, Christie reportedly spoke to her by phone and, presumably, told her what he really thinks about her. All of which has ignited a national debate that has raged from the couch on The View to the op-ed page of The New York Times.
And here, several things need to be said.
The first: Christie says what really bothered him is that one of his young children heard the doctor say his dad might die and came to ask if that was true. Even granting that Christie’s response was over the top, is there anyone who cannot empathize with the fatherly anguish that caused it?
The second: Does anyone really believe Christie does not already know he is overweight? Or that he is not already aware that this carries serious health risks?
The third: When has the hectoring of friends ever convinced an obese person to make a serious and lasting commitment to weight loss? Does it not more often trigger resentment than resolve? So how much less effective is national hectoring likely to be?
The fourth: There is something disingenuous in framing this as a question of Christie’s medical fitness for the presidency. The present holder of that office is a recovering nicotine addict and surely the lethality of tobacco is at least as great as that of fat, if not more so. Yet, in 2008, when the nation was debating his fitness for office, the fact that Barack Obama was a smoker rated barely a mention.