New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) tells the New York Post that he underwent weight-loss surgery in February, and kept the operation secret by registering under a false name. Christie, who has tried to lose weight for years, said he was making an aggressive push to slim down for the sake of his health and his family. "For me, this is about turning 50 and looking at my children and wanting to be there for them," he told the Post.
Unsurprisingly, not everyone is buying that explanation. Christie, who's expected to cruise to re-election as governor in the fall, was rumored to be a possible GOP presidential and vice presidential candidate in 2012, and the same is true in 2016. And for years, many naysayers have said that Christie's weight is among his biggest obstacles on any potential road to the White House. So of course, his weight-loss surgery is being seen as indicative of his presidential ambitions. "This means he's running for president," a top political donor told the Post. "He's showing people he can get his weight in control. It was the one thing holding him back."
Which account are political experts to believe — Christie's, or those in this donor's camp? That's an easy one, says Jeff Dunetz at Yid with Lid. "Surely his family had something to do with his decision but despite his denials it is clear that one of the reasons for the surgery is a 2016 bid." Christie's heft — he doesn't say how much he weighs, but estimates range from 300 to 350 pounds — "made it very unlikely that he could withstand the rigors of a campaign. And quite honestly voters might shy away from a candidate who was as obese as Christie."
Christie certainly wouldn't be the first politician to take drastic measures to improve his appearance in the eyes of voters. Still, he had long said that his wife and four kids were urging him to lose weight for the sake of his health. And his doctors really have been warning him that his health is at stake. "Maybe I’m just too naive to be writing and talking about politics," says Jeff Greenfield at Yahoo News, but "I actually thought he offered a reasonable explanation." It's true that Americans haven't elected a genuinely obese president since William Howard Taft, "but just as Freud noted that 'sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,' political people really do things at times for reasons that are not political."
Why do I take Gov. Christie's explanation for his weight loss hopes at face value? I have four young grandchildren, with a fifth on the way, and I will soon reach my allotted three score and ten years. The desire to be around to cheer at their graduations and dance at their weddings is a motivation I deeply understand. [Yahoo News]
Regardless of his motivation, Christie's efforts to slim down will surely continue to be noticed. The lap-band surgery he underwent involves placing a silicone tube around the top of a patient's stomach to restrict the amount of food he can eat before feeling full. After just a few months, Christie is already looking thinner, and the surgeon he picked — Dr. George Fielding, head of NYU Medical Center’s Weight Management Program — helped New York Jets coach Rex Ryan shave 100 pounds off his 350-pounds frame with the same procedure. If all goes well, it will be hard for voters NOT to notice the change in Christie's appearance.
There are no guarantees, however — with respect to Christie's weight, or with the possible political ramifications of his drastic effort to trim down. "We typically expect our potential presidents to be all-natural," notes David Weigel at Slate. Politicians in lower offices have had gastric surgery, but this is the first time a potential candidate for the White House has made such an admission. Regardless, says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway, Christie is right about what matters most. "Here's hoping that this helps the Governor deal with his problems and get his health on the right track."