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Veto the junk food

It’s fairly common knowledge that you have to be skinny to be a model or an actress, but do you have to fight the battle of the bulge to become president? And I’m not talking about having a World War II service record. A recent Newsweek article says that Al Gore’s waistline might be an indicator of whether he decides to run for president and that “the theory is that slimming down will be a signal he intends to run.”

Would we elect a fat president? A president’s health and fitness is always a campaign issue, so one could argue that an obese candidate would be more likely to die in office. But I think the aesthetic issue is more important. I seriously doubt we’d elect a candidate in a wheelchair today, but Franklin D. Roosevelt was able to wheel himself into office because the TV and Internet didn’t exist. If we were to elect a fat president, they’d have to be damn charming or charismatic to compensate for the perceived negative of being overweight. Bill Clinton was a bit chubby, but he was a great public speaker, so I guess he got away with it, though he did eventually have a quadruple bypass. I doubt Hillary Clinton would be able to get away with the same simply because she’s female. For the record, I think she looks really good for a woman who is older than my mother.

Another candidate, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, lost about 110 pounds during office and has made obesity and health one of his campaign issues. I guess having a formerly obese president is about as close as we are likely to come. I suppose it’s just a further indicator that we are all judged by how we look, whether we like it or not, even if you’re running for the most powerful political office in the country.

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10 Comments

marygrace • March 19, 2007 at 11:25 am

hi! i am an avid reader of your blog and always find your posts to be insightful and interesting. however, i think that regarding the issue of obesity when running for public office, there is more to the issue than just how the candidate looks. it is undeniable that people in general tend to gravitate towards those who are good-looking and fit. aside from vanity or attraction, however, obesity is a huge (no pun intended) issue in america today. it is negatively affecting the well-being of a many americans, and is responsible for numerous health issues. america is getting fat at an alarming rate, and it is causing a lot of problems.

with all of this, i think that an individual running for public office should aspire to project a healthy body image. i am not a fan of president bush at all, however, i do find it commendable that he is portrayed as healthy and athletic, with the media often showing coverage of him jogging or riding his bike. as a leader, i think that a person in public office should encourage this basic idea of health that can really enhance a person’s quality of life. after all, a president or governor or senator is supposed to be a model citizen. (not that the actions of many of them support this, i know). to me, therefore, it would not only seem inappropriate, but somewhat depressing, to see a representative of the american people that was overweight and unhealthy. it is not an issue of looks, but an issue of health, well-being, and of setting a good example.

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Allison • March 19, 2007 at 12:00 pm

Image has been an issue since the first televised presedential debate. Nixon vs. Kennedy. Guess who won the debate based on TV viewers’ perceptions?

http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/K/htmlK/kennedy-nixon/kennedy-nixon.htm

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Vamp • March 19, 2007 at 4:29 pm

I think it’s all about appeal, PQ. I remember watching a special on television about how Ronald Reagan was only allowed to be photographed from a certain angle (to hide the turkey gizzard neck) and how Mr. Roosevelt would lock his braces in place on his legs so he would be able to “walk”. It’s all smoke and mirrors. I just hope that we end up electing someone who’s true goal is to make sure the US is the best we can possibly be as a nation.

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K • March 19, 2007 at 7:05 pm

Well, I’ve just read a book which pointed out (among other things) that modern American presidents have all been taller than their closest rivals, and that there’s never been a bald president. So, no, I don’t think an overweight candidate would get a completely fair hearing.

Given how much work it takes to keep really fit, I don’t think any politician ought to spend too much time on it. Try to be healthy, yes.

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Lose Weight With Me • March 19, 2007 at 8:49 pm

Yet another example of the tremendous pressure our society puts on people to be slim and trim.

And I agree, I think that Hillary wouldn’t be able to get away with it.

Damn double standard, and even more pressure on women.

Brian

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Ali • March 19, 2007 at 9:09 pm

What follows is my immensely biased opinion:

In 1998, Australia had an election. On one hand, a Liberal prime minister wanting to introduce a GST that nobody seemed to want. On the other had, a fantastic politician who happened to be rather obese.

Guess who won?!

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Chris H • March 20, 2007 at 12:31 am

I have been trying to write a comment on this post for ages, and keep coming back to…. I agree with most of the above comments ! So why try and add to it? Life sucks when you are fat, and it is unfair, and awful, and that’s all there is to it!

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lovelines • March 20, 2007 at 4:23 am

It’s not just the fat though. We generally don’t elect anyone that doesn’t fit into a certain mold. White, male, of a certain socioeconomic class. Tall candidates win over short ones, as do more attractive candidates. The fat vs. thin thing is just one of those random unfair things about voting. Oh well. Guess I can’t be president quite yet then ;)

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Marshmallow • March 20, 2007 at 7:10 am

Interesting thoughts… New Zealand’s Prime Minister is often ridiculed because of her looks (people cite that she looks like a man), though despite being an incredibly fit woman for her age (or for any age – for fun she climbs mountains and white water rafting!)

I guess its different here because we pick the party, not the person, who runs our country. Whoever ends up Prime Minister is just a side effect of all of the policy pushing that goes on.

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AAD • March 20, 2007 at 12:46 pm

While I agree that a politician should aspire to be healthy and fit to adequately fulfill his or her responsibilities as a public servant, I do have to wonder if, in our country (the U.S.), *looking* fit and healthy has become more important to the average voter, perhaps subconsciously, than say, knowing the difference between Sunni and Shiite, understanding the complexities of international political economy, or being able to navigate the checks and balances system. In other words… would I rather have a president who is fit, or a president who is educated, intelligent, and well-suited for his job? I’m not saying the two are mutually exclusive, but it’s something to think about.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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