The Body Politic: Trump’s physique as role model


Americans often view their presidents as the epitome of physical or moral qualities that they admire and seek to emulate. Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Ronald W. Reagan were regarded by many as towers of moral strength and courage, while ignoring whatever physical or mental illnesses those men did their best to hide. Our current president, Donald J. Trump, is admired by a large segment of the population, though for reasons this admittedly prejudiced observer cannot seem to understand. They apparently like Trump for his wealth – mostly inherited – his family – five children from three wives – and his successful race against 16 other Republicans and “crooked Hillary.” However, Trump lacks one quality that none of his followers, not even Mike Pence at his most sycophantic, can attribute to him: his physical fitness. The sad state of Trump’s body has been noted by many commentators, most recently by Ben Strauss in (July 18, 2017).  “Is the President Fit?,” asks Strauss, and concludes that “Donald Trump is the least athletic president in generations.”

Strauss begins his piece by noting the president’s propensity for moving around in golf carts, even on short distances when most people would walk. “Few props have been more indispensable to Donald Trump’s presidency than the golf cart. He drives them on his frequent weekend trips to the links. … During his visit to Saudi Arabia in May, rather than walk, the president hopped a ride in a cart as he toured the National Museum in Riyadh. And a few days later, while six other world leaders at a G-7 summit in Sicily walked 700 yards up a slight hill to a photo-op, Trump followed behind for at least part of the way in, yes, another golf cart.” Unlike other presidents, Trump does not believe in the strenuous life. On the contrary, Trump believes that exercise is bad for you, that “we only have so much energy, [and] it was important not to waste it.” On the other hand, Trump said, “all my friends who work out all the time, they’re going for knee replacements, hip replacements – they’re a disaster.”

According to Strauss, “in the modern history of American presidents, no occupant of the Oval Office has evinced less interest in his own health. He does not smoke or drink, but his fast-food, red meat-heavy diet, his aversion to exercise and a tendency to gorge on television for hours at a time put him at odds with his predecessors.” Other presidents went out to hike, ski, ride horses, or swim naked on the Potomac River (John Quincy Adams). “When Trump goes out, it’s more often to eat – usually at one of his hotels where the chefs know he likes his steak well done with ketchup. And on the campaign trail, he made a point of mentioning his taste for fast foods like Kentucky Fried Chicken. … This may make the president more relatable to the average American, who scarfs down some $1,200 worth of fast food each year, but it’s an unusual habit for someone holding down one of the world’s most demanding jobs. And even by his own charitable metrics – last year, Trump claimed to stand 6-foot-3 and weighs 236 pounds – he is five pounds shy of obese under the body mass index. By any measure, America’s president is overweight, and medical experts say it could be affecting his health and his job.” All this does not stop the Donald from criticizing other people, especially women, for their less-than perfect physical appearance.

Trump supporters argue that they did not intend to elect a personal trainer in-chief. Rather, they voted for someone who, in their view, would use his past experiences and personal traits to “make America great again.” And Trump no doubt sees Strauss’s article as “fake news” on the part of a “loser” who cannot appreciate winning when he sees it. As one who has a few too many pounds under his belt, I should not be too critical of our current chief executive. But I know an unhealthy body when I see it, and Trump has one. Though many Trump haters would be delighted to see their enemy drop dead from a heart attack caused by too many chicken fingers, I do not relish an event that will lead to a more fanatical (and fit) President Pence. But presidents have consequences; and Trump’s unwillingness to diet and exercise gives a bad example to millions of America who love the Donald as much as they love fried food. “Imagine if Trump got up tomorrow and got a trainer or even just started walking,” Professor John Ratey told Strauss. “Even if no one but his most loyal base responded, that could make a life-saving difference in the lives of thousands of people.” But here, as with everything else, Donald Trump only cares about himself.

Jesse’s Journal
by Jesse Monteagudo



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