If you’ve ever found yourself beating your brains out about why reasonable people don’t run for public office, it’s because even the reasonable things they do will be subject to accusations of “playing politics.” Case in point: Gov. Chris Christie’s (R-NJ) reason for secretly obtaining gastric band surgery in February. Why he felt the need to tell the New York Post this (of all papers!), I don’t know; it may have been a pre-emptive strike, in order to avoid the inevitable gawking and speculation that would come with significant weight loss on his part.
For those who are unfamiliar with gastric band surgery:
The operation included placing a silicone tube around the top of his stomach, where it restricts the amount of food he can eat at one time and makes him feel fuller, faster.
For the record, no, it wasn’t the surgery featured in the scene during which you covered your eyes in Super Size Me. That’s a gastric bypass, which divides the stomach into two “pouches,” one for food and one for remnants. Let that haunt your daydreams.
It seems pretty cut-and-dried, doesn’t it? Christie has struggled with his weight for a long time, and it’s come with a lot of unfair criticism that has nothing to do with governing. I will say, however, that when it comes to crafting policy around health and nutrition, it would be good for him to draw on his own experience in emphasizing long-term lifestyle change as opposed to surgery. If nothing else, it might remove one driver of health care cost growth.
But, since we’re talking about Christie, of course it’s not that simple. Not even the Post, despite being entrusted with this exclusive, believed him when he said it was for his family’s sake. If they did, they may not have included this part:
Despite Christie’s denials, political fund-raisers say that the surgery is a clear sign that he’s going to join the 2016 race — and will do whatever it takes to win. “This means he’s running for president. He’s showing people he can get his weight in control. It was the one thing holding him back,” a top political donor told The Post.
Sure, if you’re going to be in campaign mode for eight years, you’ll want all bodily systems go. But it does not mean that he’s running for president. This may be a shocking prospect, but it could mean that he’s heeding his family’s concerns about his health. There’s no need to assign an ulterior motive until he lets fly with one, as he let fly with the surgery itself, which he may now regret.
Is this what anyone considered a prospect for higher office must suffer? “I bet Newark mayor Cory Booker saved all those people and animals so he can be president one day!” How cynical is that, honestly? Even a politician can be noble once in a while.