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COLLINS: An issue of fitness for office

  • (JENNIFER KOHNKE / Tribune Media Services)

Our topic for today is: How much do we care about physical fitness in an elected official? Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey recently had a cross-continental shouting match with Dr. Connie Mariano, a former White House physician who said the governor's weight is “almost like a time bomb waiting to happen,” adding, “I worry about this man dying in office.”

Mariano's concern is probably not at the nail-biting, walking-the-floor-at-night level. After all, she lives in Arizona, and there must be tens of thousands of overweight executives in need of attention, scattered all over the landscape between there and New Jersey. The governor's size also does not appear to be a pressing concern for the majority of his constituents, who currently seem so enamored that they'd vote him back into office if he was too large to get out of the upstairs bedroom without assistance from emergency responders.

The governor says he's very healthy and that “there is a plan” for losing weight. But there is also a plan for totally funding the state employee pension system. I wouldn't hold your breath.

There's a national accord that thin is generally better than fat. However, it's hardly the biggest issue when you're picking a governor. There are citizens all over the country who would trade their more compact leaders for Christie in a second. Just ask somebody in Pennsylvania. Or Illinois. The guy in Florida has the physique of a greyhound and the state is totally miserable.

In 2006, New Yorkers elected Eliot Spitzer, a man who could not possibly have looked fitter. We probably had the best BMI in the National Governors Association. Just over a year later, he was gone in a sex scandal. You had to wonder if exceptional leanness might occasionally be accompanied by exceptional friskiness. As we all know, a governor in South Carolina once vanished for what his staff claimed were body-toning hikes on the Appalachian Trail when he was actually committing adultery in Argentina.

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