In an excellent recent Washington Examiner column, Gene Healy makes a case for voting super-sized guys (or gals?) into the White House, noting that the U.S. didn’t fare too badly under the portly Grover Cleveland, the chubby William Howard Taft, or even the somewhat flabby Bill Clinton. While Healy’s tongue is planted firmly in his cheek, he does make a convincing point that celebrity culture has usurped the political process to the point where candidates must be slim and agile, with leading-man good looks. But in what may be a silver lining for portly politicos, New Jersey’s Chris Christie was elected governor despite a BMI that must be somewhere north of 30, despite nasty anti-obesity ads by his opponent.Maybe competence counts more than calories?
Of course, as supporters of Calvin Coolidge, we know that heft can’t be the proper measure of presidential greatness. Like his portly predecessors Taft and, especially, Cleveland, Coolidge was firmly grounded in the Constitution, recognizing the limits this hallowed document places on presidential ambition. Too bad his successors, of varying shirt size, have strayed far from this understanding.