The race for the GOP nomination is, at the moment, preoccupied with one topic: Is Chris Christie too fat to run for president?
The question was raised on The View and is being debated in numerous media outlets from the New York Times to David Letterman to the Washington Post. Photos of Christie next to Obama taken when the two toured Hurricane Irene-flooded New Jersey make it very clear: Christie would not find sitting in econo-class to his liking.
As Jonathan Chait writes in New York Magazine, Christie’s weight shouldn’t be an issue in his candidacy. The fact that “American elites” are making an issue about it shows how they are “repulsed at the notion that a very fat guy could rise to a position of symbolic leadership.” More to the point are Christie’s positions on issues ranging from climate change (he says that the science about human behavior playing a role in global warming is “undeniable”), to his support of the federal assault weapons ban, to his 2008 statement (while a federal prosecutor) that “being in this country without proper documentation is not a crime.” Pundits are touting his success at putting New Jersey on a diet in a fiscal sense, as a result of putting a cap on property taxes, rolling back pension benefits and balancing the NJ state budget.
As a resident of New Jersey, I have been seeing the effects of what is in many ways a “forced” diet. Christie had singled out teachers (“welfare queens,” in the blustery parlance that so many are lauding as eloquence) and the teacher’s union, as well as a number of programs for women’s health and services for individuals with disabilities, as prime culprits for the “bloat” on the state’s budget. Christie has won praise and attention for his educational reforms which include a reevaluation of teacher tenure.
It’s been interesting seeing Christie, whose governing style (as displayed in the ugly fight over New Jersey’s budget this past summer) tends towards bullying, being transformed into Mr. Moderate, the new darling of the GOP. Back here in New Jersey, the effects of Christie’s “slim down fest” on the state have been gradually, inexorably taking their toll. New Jersey’s unemployment rate is 9.5 percent, higher than the national average of 9.1 percent. In chatting to the checkers at our local grocery store, I’ve realized that more and more of them are recent college graduates (often in education) who say there simply aren’t any jobs. My current students who are freshmen and sophomores are changing majors, adding minors and reconsidering their options to make the most of their four years in school, before they face a very uncertain job market.
Photo by IowaPolitics.com
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