The secretary replied: “Referring to your telegram . . . how is the horse?”
The Big Chief, as he was known, has been dead since 1930, which means he missed Big Macs and Big Gulps, but a 10-foot-tall caricature of him is reentering our Super Size Me world as the newest member of the Nats’ racing presidents. He will hotfoot it against George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt.
As a fat guy myself, I’m throwing my weight behind Taft. I suspect I won’t be alone.
After all, we live in a nation of fat people — two-thirds of the country is overweight or obese. The Nats’ home town is filled with fat lobbyists, fat lawyers, fat politicians, fat reporters, fat think tankers and fat Nationals season-ticket holders, all of whom know that their girth is less preferable, health-wise, to toned abs.
We also live in a time of fat shame. Fat people have their heads cut off on the TV news in reports about the “mounting dangers of obesity,” a message anchors always deliver in stern tones. Fat people need to buy two seats on Southwest Airlines. Fat bellies bulging from under T-shirts inspire first lady Michelle Obama’s crusade against obesity and the cultivation of her precious organic garden. Fat people are gawked at, blamed and discriminated against every day.
A guy at a grocery store salad bar once bumped into me and said, “Watch it, fat boy.” I wanted to say, “Dude, I’m trying.” I walked away.
So Taft represents something of a miracle for us fat people: Someone to cheer for. Someone like us. Someone like America.
The Nats probably don’t realize this, but depending on how Taft is ultimately depicted, the organization has a chance to redefine fat people at a time when new research emerges every day challenging what we think about obesity — a recent controversial study showed that fat people have lower mortality rates — as well as the role of personal responsibility. Many people are genetically predisposed to growing fat. Their size isn’t completely under their control.
So far, the Nats are avoiding the topic altogether. While officials said Taft’s head will be bigger than his competitors’, the character revealed at NatsFest last weekend had a trim, Bradley Cooperesque frame.
This fat guy hereby implores the Nats to rethink Taft’s depiction and present him as the tubby, jovial, complicated man he was — someone whose weight was seen not as abhorrent but as an important part of his character, a trait to have some fun with, something that was even (gasp!) respected.
“If Taft were running for president today, the first thing the consultants would say is that he has to lose 50 pounds,” said historian Lewis L. Gould, the author of “The William Howard Taft Presidency.” During the Progressive Era, Gould said, presidential weight denoted gravitas and authority. But nobody today is looking at New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s weight quite like that. Many talking heads openly wonder whether his obesity disqualifies him to run for president.