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.