Can Governor Christie Have his Cake and Eat it too?

Chris Christie’s recent “Lap Band” weight-loss surgery scoop remains the talk of the nation.  

Not only has the news got political junkies breathlessly reading tea-leaves (ie: Christie for President 2016?), Christie’s decision to undergo the Lab Band procedure has ignited a lively discussion about weight, health, privacy, politics and the safety of this relatively novel form of weight-loss surgery. 

To hear the Governor describe his Lap Band experience, you’d be forgiven for assuming that getting your stomach surgically banded is no big deal.  Something akin to a teeth cleaning, perhaps?  Christie called the surgery “a forty minute nap.”  

He also said the issue was “personal” and “nobody else’s business” and, most absurdly that his weight loss surgery has nothing to do with politics.  

It’s now apparent that, on all counts, Chris Christie is more full of it than usual.

“40 Minute Nap.”

My mother got Lap Band surgery in February 2010.  While Mom was under sedation (ie: taking a 40 minute nap), the surgeon nicked her stomach.  She promptly contracted sepsis and 24 hours later she was gone.  And by gone I mean “RIP gone.”  So I bristle at any characterization of the Lap Band weight-loss surgery that’s designed to make this surgery seem like no big deal.   

And besides, you don’t take a forty minute nap under an assumed name, like Chris Christie did.

Whether it’s for political purposes or for commercial purposes, it’s irresponsible to spin this surgery into anything less than what it is: a deadly serious consequential inpatient operation that carries serious risks for anyone who chooses to pursue it. 

 

“Nobody else’s business.”

Governor Christie conveniently claims his (cloak-and-dagger) decision to undergo weight-loss surgery is a private matter.  Unless of course it advances Chris Christie’s political agenda.  In which case Chris Christie would never stop talking about it.  

Bergen Record‘s Charles Stile put it nicely

“He’s more than glad to talk about his weight when it suits him — bantering with David Lettermen after wolfing down a jelly doughnut… The self-deprecating approach feeds the persona that Christie has carefully crafted for himself as an authentic Jersey everyman, comfortable in his own skin and waistline.  He hates talking about it if he’s not in control of the narrative, like Tuesday, when he was peppered with the uncomfortable questions (about his health.)”

 That might work for now as he runs for a second term in November.

But if Christie chooses to run for President?   Says Stile: “Christie…won’t be able to scowl at reporters and tell them it’s none of their business. His health will be the nation’s business and he’ll have no choice but to talk about it — often.”

And so long as Chris Christie remains governor, his health remains the business of 8.8 million residents who live in New Jersey.  Every surgery, every asthma attack, every medically-induced 40 minute nap, every everything.  

Chris Christie should stop whining (“this shows how really shallow a lot of this coverage has become”) and just be happy we’re not talking about how high our property taxes are. 

Not political? Slim to no chance.

Don’t you hate it when a politician says “this isn’t about politics” and promptly start spinning whatever it is that’s supposedly not about politics?

Turns out, Chris Christie peddles in that sorta choreographed malarkey all the time: “I’m basically the healthiest fat guy you’ve ever seen in your life,” Christie quipped during his donut-eating Letterman appearance.  

Or…..

“I know it sounds crazy to say that running for president is minor, but in the grand scheme of things, it was looking at Mary Pat and the kids and going, ‘I have to do this for them.”  Cue feigned martyrdom: “I don’t give a crap about myself.”

That same week, the Governor bitterly snarled at a former White House doctor (who expressed concern for the Governor’s health), telling her on TV to “shut up.”  

Vintage Chris Christie on both counts, right?  

Looking back it’s bizarre that Chris Christie kept up his shtick knowing he’d undergo stomach surgery 10 days later to address his obesity-related health issues.  Christie knew this, of course, when he scarfed down the donut on The Late Show.  And when he yelled at a Doctor for suggesting the Governor to do what he was already planning to do the following week.  

Hypocrisy? Yes. Disingenuous?  Of course.  But a good politician isn’t shy about letting a little disingenuous hypocrisy stand in the way of a carefully-choreographed persona.  Chris Christie is no exception. 

“My decisions about anything to do with my career are based upon what I think are best for me and best for my family,” Christie once said. “Whatever size I happen to be when I have to make decisions about what’s next in my career, I doubt that will have any effect in what I decide to do.”

I interpret that sentiment accordingly, “I’m running for President in 2016 and was too heavy to withstand the rigor of a national campaign, much less win it.” 

Monmouth University Pollster Patrick Murray sorta kinda agreed on the timing, saying, “I don’t think he would have considered this option at this time without 2016 on the horizon.”

If Chris Christie’s decision to undergo weight surgery was purely about his health and his family, he’d have addressed this 5 years ago.  Like everything with the Governor, the timing of his surgery (and the response that followed the revelation) was purely political.  And selfish.

Pity we can’t Lap Band our property taxes, eh?

I’d much prefer to critique the Governor on our state’s astonishingly high property taxes.  Or for killing NJ’s medical marijuana program with fees and regulations.  Or our  state’s high unemployment rate.  Or for vetoing marriage equality. Or ducking the chance to be a leader on health/obesity issues. There’s a lot to NOT like about Chris Christie.  

But for him to mischaracterize — for purely political purposes —  the nature  and severity of the weight-loss surgery that killed my mother?  That’s tough to accept.

It’s no secret that our nation’s not getting any thinner, a reality with serious societal costs and consequences.  Why is the Governor wasting this incredible opportunity to have a serious discussion about obesity and its consequences?  Wouldn’t it be awesome if he could parlay his (not uncommon) experience to ignite a debate and to be a role model for others who share his struggle?  

But Chris Christie won’t “go there” because that wouldn’t poll well in an Iowa GOP presidential primary race.  Which is ironic because if Christie never becomes President, it’s not because of  his relative fitness.  Or because he is or isn’t a bully.  Or even that he’s too liberal or conservative.  If he runs and fails, it’ll be because Chris Christie is too thin-skinned when he’s out of his comfort zone.  

There’s no surgery to reduce a man’s tendency to become unhinged, which remains Chris Christie’s Achilles heel.  

What will the Big Reveal actually, you know, reveal?

This much is certain: Chris Christie’s weight-loss operation was designed to curb his appetite for food.  It’ll be interesting to see how his outsized personality would fit (or not) a svelter, fitter physique. 

I  find the Governor’s girth to be the most sympathetic (and relatable) part of his carefully-cultivated entire persona, almost like a secret weapon.  And it’s certainly part of the Governor’s “zoftig, no-nonsense, everyman” brand. 

Perhaps without his size to hide behind, the rest of the world will see Chris Christie the way I do: as thin-skinned guy who can dish it out but can’t take it.  There’s a word for that.  And it’s NOT President.  

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Jay Lassiter is a liberal activist who would never veto anyone’s right to marry the person they love. He lives with his partner of 10 years and their libertarian Cat “Trouble” in Cherry Hill, NJ.  This time of year, Jay can usually be spotted at the Collingswood Farmers Market on Saturday morning.  And his property taxes are too damn high. 

 

You can follow him on Twitter @Jay_Lass

Can Governor Christie Have his Cake and Eat it too?