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Being Unaesthetically Appealing To Michael Kinsley Is A Sign of Bad Character. Or Something.

[ 41 ] September 30, 2011 |

I think this is the key passage in this very dumb and offensive column:

You’re on firmer ground claiming a bond with all humanity on the basis that the flesh is weak. On approximately this basis, we (at least I) have forgiven President Barack Obama his secret smoking (oh, of course he does) and some people (including me again, I guess) have forgiven President Bill Clinton his … well, you know. So why should Christie’s weight be more than we can bear in a president? Why should it even be a legitimate issue if he runs?

One reason is that a presidential candidate should be judged on behavior and character, not just on policies — especially because the chance these days of any actual policies being enacted is slim.

So, in other words, we don’t really care about setting a perfect health or moral example, not least because thus would be a really stupid way of judging presidents (unless you want to argue that George W. Bush was a better president than FDR.) But if it’s the kind of “health” issue that makes Michael Kinsley feel icky, then it matters, and indeed is some sort of moral issue. For all the high-minded sounding “obseity crisis” crap, this is about junior high school aesthetics. Which is really dumb and offensive and (sarcasm that doesn’t actually offer any refutation notwithstanding) irrational discrimination. Christie would not be a good president but his weight is neither here nor there.

…cf. also Eugene Robinson. And, actually, I don’t remember Robinson writing multiple columns about how Obama’s smoking habit made him unfit to be president, not least because this would be incredibly stupid.

…Chait, with as assist from some obscure law professor in the Mountain West, gets it right:

The only real reasoning I see here is that American elites view obesity with disgust, and they’re repulsed at the notion that a very fat guy could rise to a position of symbolic leadership. It’s not a very attractive sentiment.

Chait also notes another bizarre aspect of Kinsley’s argument, which is that 1)to justify his prejudice against fat people he accepts right-wing frames about how Runaway Government Spending in a period of mass unemployment is the greatest problem there absolutely ever was, but 2)then has to evade the fact that Christie in fact has cut spending. At some point, I lose count at the number of ways in which Kinsley’s ugly argument is self-refuting.

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Comments (41)

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  1. actor212 says:

    Y’know, Obama’s smoking? Hidden issue.

    Clinton’s sex? Would have been a hidden issue if the usual suspects hadn’t decided to be jackwagons about it.

    Christie’s weight? HullLO?

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Yes, so to reaffirm the issue here is that you think Christie is icky. A relevant factor for junior high school students or Maureen Dowd but less so for grown-ups.

      • NonyNony says:

        Do I wish that it were less true for grown-ups? Absolutely.

        Do I believe that voters won’t be affected by Christie’s appearance if he chooses to run? Absolutely not.

        I think that the line between “teenagers” and “grown-ups” when it comes to behavior is a lot blurrier than most people are willing to credit. Teenage behavior is often adult behavior with fewer years of social pressure behind it to build decent impulse control.

        But you’re definitely right about one thing Scott – it has absolutely NOTHING to do with health or moral issues and absolutely EVERYTHING to do with aesthetics.

      • actor212 says:

        If Kinsley’s argument is about role modeling, then it is an issue, yes. If it’s about relevance to the job of President, then no, I do not.

        If your point is that Kinsley’s column is douchery, I have to agree with Nony: like it or not, looksism is a factor in American politics, and we have only to look down the page at the FAIL item to see this.

        Apart from John McCain, name one balding candidate since Nixon. Name one fat one since Taft. Name one (relatively) short one since Dukakis.

        We in this nation have an image of Presidential, and Christie does not fit it. The Presidency may be an office that exercises power and influence but to get there, you have to seduce voters. Christie will not. He cannot.

    • Artor says:

      The fat in Christie’s head worries me far more than the fat in his spare tires.

  2. Epicurus says:

    I don’t dislike Christie because he’s morbidly obese; I dislike him because he’s a loud-mouthed bully. Also, too, he’s still an effing Republican, and it will be a very cold day in Hades before I pull the lever for a member of the Grand Old Racist Party. The Rethugs are so hard-up for a hero…and that makes me as sad as the thought of the Red Sox not making the playoffs this year. Hint: I am not shedding any tears over their collapse.

  3. ajay says:

    especially because the chance these days of any actual policies being enacted is slim.

    “…unlike Chris Christie”, his first draft continued.

    When was the last rotund US president? I mean, yes, William Howard Taft, “three hundred pounds of pure Republican” as the John Wayne movie said, but the last one who was just a bit chubby?

      • NonyNony says:

        Clinton’s ‘chubbiness’ was offset by the fact that ‘everyone knew’ that he was banging multiple women who were not his wife.

        The Villagers might put this in their “negative” column for Clinton, but out in the heartland of “Real America” that behavior showed that he was a real alpha male leader type who wasn’t going to let Politically Correct Feminazis control his life. (And yeah – I actually do think that his scandals ended up playing a role similar to the triangulation strategies he used in office – whether that was intentional or accidental I have no clue.)

        I don’t even see it as a comparison of negatives like Kinsley wants to make it. I might WISH that Clinton’s behavior was a net negative for him, much like I might WISH that Christie’s appearance was a net neutral for him, but in Clinton’s case I haven’t seen the evidence for that. And in fact I think it may be just the reverse. I don’t know of anyone who’s done an in-depth analysis to see what the actual facts were (or even if you could do an in-depth analysis of such a question).

      • LKS says:

        Clinton was moderately overweight, and he did exercise. Christie is morbidly obese.

    • Rob says:

      Harding and Hoover were far from gaunt.

  4. chimneyswift says:

    It doesn’t have to make sense, but it is obvious and undeniable that an overweight person would have a strong disadvantage running for president. We like commercials. We like movies. We like good looking people doing dramatic things. This is America.

    Chris Christie is their last best hope and that is a sad indictment of the Republican Party. Is his weight an issue? Sure! It would be for a Democrat or a Libertarian or Green Pluto Mactocrat, why shouldn’t it be for him?

  5. Jersey Tomato says:

    What is it with the people who write this kind of thing? Seriously: Michael Kinsley on Christie’s appearance, Glenn Reynolds on Elizabeth Warren’s, Fran Luntz ridiculing Hillary Clinton’s looks awhile ago… Have any of these people looked at themselves in a mirror lately? Unless you’re on the short list to grace the cover of Cosmo or GQ, just shut the hell up about how other people look. (And yes, I can criticize because I am gorgeous!)

  6. c u n d gulag says:

    Never mind politicians, we need term limits for pundits!

  7. wengler says:

    I wish there’d be more articles about what a truly shitty governor Christie is, rather than ones about him being a golden boy held back by his large waistline.

  8. Mikey says:

    I disagree with your “shouldn’t be an issue” conclusion.
    Christie’s Ginormity will, and well should be, an issue if he runs for President.
    I relish the prospect of “The Laurel and Hardy Debates” with Obama as someone said here yesterday. I think Christie deserves as much if he stands for the party of misogyny and insult; from just ugly (Chelsea Clinton, Nancy Pulosi, Madellaine Albright) to fat and ugly (Hilary Clinton). And the party that promotes it’s “hot” women while pointing and laughing at all the fugly Democrats.
    On a less vindictive note, Christie the candidate makes obvious to all that a woman of his size would never even consider running for President — it wouldn’t even come up. Maybe his presence get’s somebody talking about that in public like you talked about it here yesterday.

    And back to a more vindictive note, apart from the misogyny I’ve had it with their AlGore Michael Moore Bill Clinton are fat! grade school bullshit. So let Christie and his fans deal with it too. What’s wrong with that?
    And yes, I know Al Franken called Rusty a big fat idiot. Perhaps we’re all 8 years old at some level. But let those other 3rd graders suck on it for a change. Fuck them.

    • Warren Terra says:

      “Big Fat Idiot” was always a finely balanced insult, because on the one hand Limbaugh was frequently abused with references to his obesity, and on the other hand “big fat idiot” is, or at least certainly was, a schoolground taunt of kindergarteners that doesn’t have to have anything to do with weight – the “big” and “fat” modifying the idiocy, if anything, rather than the target of the insult.

      • Hob says:

        I took that title the opposite way: Franken was trying to make the insult as unbalanced as possible, to make it something no one could possibly mistake for a reasoned critique– it’s not the kind of thing one uses as the title of a book of political satire, you’re supposed to be more sly and clever than that, but it’s exactly the kind of thing Limbaugh says all the time. The reason that’s a joke, rather than just a depressing case of becoming what you despise, is that the contents of the book are much smarter than that.

    • mark f says:

      I’ve had it with their AlGore Michael Moore Bill Clinton are fat! grade school bullshit. So let Christie and his fans deal with it too. What’s wrong with that?

      Speaking of grade school, I’m pretty sure I learned something back then about what one wrong and another wrong add up to. Or maybe don’t add up to. I’m not sure. It was a long time ago.

      • dangermouse says:

        I learned a lot of stupid, counterproductive bullshit in grade school too.

        • mark f says:

          Ask Jon Corzine how productive calling Chris Christie fat is in a political campaign.

          • jefft452 says:

            That’s what Tweety said, but I call bullshit

            1 Corzine didn’t mock Christie for being fat, the add in question was about him abusing his authority and included the line “throwing his weight around”
            your view may differ, but “throwing your weight around” to me is “he’s an entitled asshole” not “he’s fat”

            2 Corzine lost because he was the former head of an investment bank at a time when investment banks had just crashed the economy

  9. LKS says:

    This column might even be stupider and full of more assertions without arguments than Epstein’s.

    You guys are on a roll the last couple days.

  10. Nikki says:

    This smacks me more of a taunt, an attempt to dare the fat governor to get into the race.

  11. DrDick says:

    As much as I loath Christie, his weight is not and should not be an issue here (though I suppose an argument could be made that it demonstrates a lack of judgment). President Taft anyone?

  12. dangermouse says:

    There’s so many great reasons to hate Christie, focusing on his weight seems like such a waste.

  13. mark f says:

    If anyone is interested in the equally stupid pro-fat argument, head over to Power Line:

    If Chris Christie were to become a candidate for president, would his obesity constitute a road block to the White House? I think the answer to the question is, obviously, no. Voters are in a mood for the anti-Obama. Christie would provide the perfect contrast, right down to the waistline. Christie’s weight isn’t a glitch; it’s a feature. His weight is an element of his authenticity.

  14. virag says:

    it’s not that christie is a huge fat turd, it’s that he’s a huge fat asshole and koch-sucker. those are what should disqualify him from consideration in the finest, most exclusive salons. the fact that he’s a disgusting fatbody and needed to be driven a few hundred feet due to his generous mass and volume is just a bonus.

  15. Matt says:

    Do all you skinny fucking fat people hating assholes understand that (1) there are a lot more fat people than skinny people (particularly in “purple states”, (2) fat people don’t really have a bond, except the one that says skinny people know nothing about being fat, (3) Christie”s weight may be why he chooses not to run, because he has undoubtedly been traumatized about his weight since he was about 6 [unless he's recently obese] and (4) Fat people will forgive a lot of bad policies if a bunch of left wing skinny blogger types with glasses start telling them their hereditary deficiencies are a sign of weakness (Michael Kinsley is a squinty four eyed freak, like most retarded people I know, except he’s on meth– that’s just a joke, I hope).

    Fat is a group no one wants to join, but everyone in it understands the other fat guy. SO fuck with fat at your peril. Obama’s too smart to do it, Kinsley, again is on meth.

  16. [...] would also note that this is completely irrelevant to the arguments made by Kinsley and Robinson.   They didn’t argue that Christie couldn’t become president; they argued that his [...]

  17. [...] is. (Well, OK, there’s also his apparently sincere belief that political leaders need to meet his exacting aesthetic standards.) In addition, I would like to note how Limbaugh’s carefully considered, increasingly vicious [...]

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