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Il Giornale, Italy

Christie Challenges the Ultimate
Taboo: An Overweight President



By Eleonora Barbieri

Translated By Anna Carapellotti

29 May 2013

Edited by Gillian Palmer


Italy - Il Giornale - Original Article (Italian)

The governor of New Jersey ignores his party’s criticisms and again meets with Obama. In an America obsessed with being thin, he jokes about obesity — and looks toward 2016.

Seven months after Hurricane Sandy, they meet again on the Jersey Shore, the coast of New Jersey. Rebuilt and restored, ready for the summer season and the tourists.

Seven months after the hurricane that devastated the northeast coast of the United States and after that handshake and friendly hug with Obama, but, above all, after those words of praise that drew attention to Chris Christie, Republican state governor, the thunder of the Grand Old Party: He became the snake, the traitor within the party, who gave the bipartisan support that the president needed a handful of hours before the election. What happened is well known; it is understood that his party comrades never forgave Christie for the contribution that was so politically correct it became incorrect, for the excess of political honesty that may have also been driven by personal interests. To Christie, a Republican at the head of a blue state, with the race for his re-election in sight (this coming fall), it is in his best interests to step forward as a cross-party politician and make appearances with Obama. But all of this could also be a ploy, with the race for the 2016 presidential nomination in mind (this is often expressed, but can be hotly contested at party assemblies).

It is also a good move for Obama to be photographed on the Jersey Shore, looking polished with his friend-enemy that gave him a hand in his re-election to the White House: distracting public opinion from scandals and flaws, spying journalists, service disasters in Benghazi, tax intrusiveness at the expense of rivals, terrorism, Guantanamo, unemployment. Instead, on display is a federal government that acts, gives money and is functional, and a state (New Jersey) that rolled up its sleeves and recovered from $38 billion in damages.

The image, in other words, is a gift that benefits both of them. Obama and Christie, together again: As soon as the president got off the plane yesterday, he gave Christie little less than a kiss. The greeting, the smiles, the handshakes and the pats on the back said it all. Understand that Christie couldn’t care less — about the party’s criticism, the accusations of attending only to his personal interests and anticipating the electoral campaign, the insinuations of his role as leader. To those who are not fond of him, he responds as he did in the fall after Sandy: “I’ve got a job to do.”

He is not afraid to meet the people and the voters of the Jersey Shore, he is not afraid to be seen with Obama and he is not afraid of the fuming Republicans because he is not afraid of himself: a tremendously oversized governor in an America with myths of physical fitness and health consciousness. Undeniably overweight (especially next to the president), if he becomes Obama’s successor he will surely become the nemesis of Michelle, the first lady who made the fight against obesity her crusade. He is so overweight and yet not afraid to appear on David Letterman and command the scene by eating a doughnut on live TV, complaining about the duration of the program.

Recently, a former White House doctor said that if he becomes president the country runs the risk of him dying in office. Christie replied, “She should shut up.” With those who asked of his surgery in February, he was resistant at first to talk about his obesity: “It’s nobody else’s business.” But then at a press conference in Newark, the almost fifty-year-old Christie revealed that yes, he had an operation, that it was done for his health and that it “is about my family’s future,” not at all for the presidential election (he said he does not care how long it takes for people to believe him).

An extra-large Republican president with a passion for a (black) Democrat might be regarded as a double taboo. What might happen is another matter, but Robin Lakoff, a professor at Berkeley, wrote in The Huffington Post that Christie is “large,” in every sense of the word: because he mocks “our contemporary demand for thinness at any cost” and because his tonnage is his very presence. The governor “occupies as much space as he needs and wants, he is in your face and cannot be made invisible.” A challenge, however: He is already confronted every time he takes the field. He said it himself: Weight is “the only still-acceptable form of discrimination in our country.” A paradox. Christie will do anything to expose himself; he will even use doughnuts (and surgery).



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