To the list of worn-out topics I’m already tired about — add New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s weight.
The governor’s girth is topical only because Christie may run for president. So worrying hands are wrung and fleshy jowls are flapped over the notion he’s too fat for presidential office.
Colorado Law School Professor Paul Campos for one, takes issue with “our fact-hating culture,” and decries those who animated by “political preferences” exploit “our culture’s fear and hatred of fat for political gain.”
Waxing simpatico with Professor Campos are the weight-sensitive souls among us, nodding in agreement that corpulent Christie critics merely evidence modern society’s bias against the plus-sized.
What’s the big deal anyway? Besides ‘Bubba’ Clinton, who hardly counts since he fluctuated only a tad between barbecue, cinnamon rolls, and McDonald’s, — there’s been at least four obese U.S. Presidents. So why not ‘Husky Boy’ Christie?
White House Big Guys.
The White House has seen its share of portly presidents. The biggest Big Guy was our 27th president and later the nation’s 10th U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice, William Howard Taft.
At just under 6 feet tall, Taft tipped the scales at 350 lbs. Indeed, tales were told of broken bed springs and of Taft getting stuck in the Presidential bathtub and of having to order a plus-sized replacement.
As compiled at “Fat Presidents: A Survey” | New Republic, others on the list were Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, Zachary Taylor and Teddy Roosevelt as “America’s Least Healthy Presidents.”
Judge Lynn Hughes.
But when it comes to bias, why stop at bigotry against the obese? Considering the myth of Postracial America, the more insurmountable problem revolves around race.
Which gets me to the more provocative topic of the day — judicial bias and racial sensibility.
Thinking out loud, one wonders if U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes — a Texas Article III jurist again in the news hasn’t finally stepped on himself one time too many over race. Not that much anything comes of complaining about federal judges.
Manifesting the extent of his sensibilities concerning race, Judge Hughes once opined, “No black individually and no blacks collectively owns [sic] the sensitivity rights to fried chicken or anything else.” He uttered this thought after the plaintiff’s lawyer in that case had said that an alleged reference to fried chicken was “a long-standing racial slur.” Judge Hughes responded, “That’s really surprising to Colonel Sanders.”
Of the alleged fried chicken reference, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later admonished — albeit without naming him in the appellate opinion, “The district judge’s comment misses the mark, as it overlooks the racial component.” But gentle reproof notwithstanding, the higher court otherwise found sufficient merit to uphold Judge Hughes.
And the bias in all of us.
But perhaps the plainspoken jurist may find a modicum of comfort from news about social cognition research at Harvard University and the study, “Project Implicit.” The research suggest there’s bias in all of us. It’s just a question of how strong and pronounced.
Take their Four-Category Race IAT test if you doubt the research. You might be as surprised as I was. Also see, “Out, damned spot: The ‘mindbugs’ of bias that sneak into our brains.”
But despite the apparent ubiquity of bias, the rest of us don’t sit berobed in judgment on racial matters. Nor do most of us generate as much controversial ink. The legal blog, “Above the Law,” has also reported on Judge Hughes “a few times,” including concerning his latest race, diversity and bias foray at “Judge of the Day: Lynn Hughes Strikes Again.”
It’s no surprise, then, the Texas Civil Rights Project filed a formal judicial complaint against the judge — who a longtime friend nevertheless defends as ‘”crusty” and a “feisty old fellow.“ Crustiness and feistiness aside, the judicial complaint wants his resignation.
And in this latest race controversy, plaintiff’s lawyer Jo Miller — perhaps the bravest lawyer so far this year, shared in her recusal motion the following quotes illuminating Judge Hughes’ views on diversity managers, “Why don’t they just hire people on ability and let diversity take care of itself?
“And what does the diversity director do? Go around and painting students different colors so that they would think they were mixed?” [emphasis included in the motion]
Ah, but that’s where — to quote the 5th Circuit — he again “misses the mark.” The U.S. Supreme Court long ago settled the issue of race as “an immutable characteristic determined solely by the accident of birth.”
Indeed, this is why when folks ask about my tan, I always answer the same way, “That’s no tan — that’s the paint job my mother gave me.”
Photo Credits: “Chris Christie,” by DonkeyHotey at Flickr via Creative Commons-license requiring attribution; “William Howard Taft,” at Wikipedia Commons, http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c19192;“Hastings Lomo #97,” by SqueakyMarmot, at Flickr via Creative Commons-license requiring attribution; “Silent Diversity,” by DryHundredFear, at Flickr via Creative Commons-license requiring attribution.