Friday, August 1, 2008

Being Healthy is Now a Liability

The Wall Street Journal gave us another gem today:

[I]n a nation in which 66% of the voting-age population is overweight and 32% is obese, could Sen. Obama's skinniness be a liability?
So because Obama likes to work out and eat healthy, and God forbid, does not care for ice cream, it’s another sign that he’s “elitist” and “out of touch” with Americans, since we’re all fat and eat disgusting fried junk. We can’t relate to someone who buys arugla at Whole Foods, who doesn’t eat “typical” All-American fare like Cheese Whiz, who’s too much of a celebrity and superhuman since he doesn’t have to struggle with what to eat and constantly worry about his weight.

What an insult to the millions of Americans who not only have brains, but actually do care about eating healthy, who exercise, and to all the thin people out there. Those kind of preoccupations are obviously only for the wealthy and the famous. Gyms must be a coastal thing, since according to the article, it’s all the Midwesterners and Southerners (and female Clinton supporters) who have problems with Obama’s food and exercise preferences. And if you exercise too much, not only is it big news but the implication is you are vain.

The article touches on his recent Access Hollywood interview, other presidential “gaffes” with food, and how President Clinton’s oft-discussed McDonald’s habit helped him win voters back in 1992, especially in Southern states like Georgia and Tennessee, since they have a large number of overweight people.

Although Obama, “stays away from junk food and instead snacks on MET-Rx chocolate roasted-peanut protein bars and drinks Black Forest Berry Honest Tea, a healthy organic brew,” at times he has to pretend that he really, really isn’t that guy:

Lately, Sen. Obama is more careful. On a campaign stop in Lebanon, Mo., on Wednesday, Sen. Obama visited with voters at Bell's Diner and promptly announced, "Well, I've had lunch today but I'm thinking maybe there is some pie."

He settled on fried chicken and told the crowd he's become a junk-food lover. "The healthy people, we'll give them the breasts," he told the waitress. "I'll eat the wings."
Even though his smoking habit has gotten attention—although even that is considered a liability, since the percentage of Americans who smoke has decreased rapidly—apparently it’s not enough:

Some voters say that even this adds to Sen. Obama's somewhat superhuman persona.

"I mean, really, who quits smoking and doesn't gain any weight?" says 30-year-old Stella Metsovas, an Obama supporter in Laguna Beach, Calif.

Everything, especially in politics, is a lose-lose situation. If Obama was overweight and ate junk food, coverage would be about his health and all the millions of voters who would be turned off by his laziness and disrespect for his body, and Republicans would question how fit he is for the job, physically and mentally. With all the constant coverage on how unhealthy and fat Americans already are, there’s no need to criticize the candidate for taking care of himself and liking what he likes. Mike Huckabee won a lot of support for being vocal about his weight loss struggles, and became an inspiration to many. That’s the kind of initiative voters look for in presidents—and what many see in Obama.


petpluto said...

The Wallstreet Journal has been on a rampage lately, hasn't it? Excellent take down, by the way.

I find it odd how people "connect" to politicians. "He eats ice cream!" "He's a dog person!" "He likes Army Wives!" I'm hoping that it is more of a case of media portrayal than actual voting trends, but I'm scared to think that the media is actually getting this one right and people really are just that stupid. Overall though, I just find it incredibly sad that a politician has to change their eating habits in order to win elections. What a rubric!

John said...

First of all, it's Cheez Wiz. Real cheese wants nothing to do with that stuff.

Second, does Sen. Obama smoke? I seem to have missed that fact entirely. I'm far more concerned with the possibility of having a president in Big Tobacco's pocket than any health implications.

Third, voters care far too much about things that have nothing to do with a candidate's qualifications for presidency. I sincerely hope that there aren't actually any swing voters who can be swayed by whether or not a candidate eats at McDonald's.

petpluto said...

John, I'm pretty sure he quit. It was a stipulation of Michelle's before she would sign on to him running for president.

mikhailbakunin said...

I have a hard time believing that a candidate's eating habits can actually sway voters against him, but the polls seem to suggest otherwise.

I mean, I understand people being concerned about real character issues--like, say, whether a candidate had multiple affairs that he lied about under oath after signing a crime bill into law that allowed testimony about past infidelities to be used as inculpatory evidence in sexual harassment suits.

But eating habits are a bit too trivial.