Michael Kinsley on Christie's weight "Look, I'm sorry, but New Jersey Governor Chris Christie cannot be president: He is just too fat," writes Michael Kinsley in Bloomberg View. Perhaps Americans could learn to overlook it, he says, but they shouldn't. Kinsley imagines how conservatives would rebut this: "Liberals, who embrace diversity of all other kinds... have the unmitigated gall to encourage discrimination against a truly oppressed group: people of weight." Still others might argue that Christie's weight might establish him as an "everyman," an outsider immune to the trends of urban elite. Indeed, there is a growing number of overweight voters, but rarely an overweight official to "represent" them, Kinsley notes skeptically. "Republicans insist that raising taxes on the rich is bad politics because most Americans hope to be rich eventually. Most overweight people hope to be thin eventually. So appealing to them in this way may not work." We've forgiven other presidents their vices before, he says, "So why should Christie's weight be more than we can bear in a president?" "One reason is that a presidential candidate should be judged on behavior and character, not just on policies," and Christie has shown he does not have "discipline" to portion what he eats and to exercise. "Christie could thin down, and he should -- because the obesity epidemic is real and dangerous. And the president inevitably sets an example." Secondly, there is the symbolism: his weight as a metaphor for America's spending and over-consumption. "Perhaps Christie is the one to help us get our national appetites under control. But it would help if he got his own under control first."
Peter Van Buren on the Iraqis left behind "On Saturday, control of the United States mission in Iraq will formally pass from the military to the State Department," writes Peter Van Buren in The New York Times. Van Buren spent two years with the State Department working outside Baghdad, and he is pessimistic the department will improve the situation there. "I am still haunted by the Iraqis we left behind," he writes. In Iraq, there often wasn't much he felt he could do for suffering civilians. He met an Iraqi who noted the United States had sponsored art shows in his neighborhood three years running, but had yet to fix the non-functioning sewers, electricity, or water supply. "When my team tried to give away fruit tree seedlings to replant ruined orchards, a farmer spat on the ground and said, 'You killed my son and now you are giving me a tree?'" He particularly remembers an interpreter whom he calls Aida. She had been an English professor and to attain that position she'd needed to join Saddam Hussein's Baath party. "Then, after the American invasion, she was fired as part of the de-Baathification process that swept up everyone from preschool teachers to Chemical Ali, a notoriously bloodthirsty henchman of Hussein's." She did simple, boring translation work for Americans and often felt she was at personal risk by helping them, but her family needed her income. When Van Buren's regional team shut down, she was once again out of work. "As we celebrate in some odd way the transition from military to civilian control of the mission in Iraq, it remains important for Americans to know that this is part of what 'victory' looks like." Without a planned refugee program, the U.S. won't be able to protect those that helped them.