Homo homini rodentius est

Could Al Gore crush Hillary? Well, obviously.

Last prayer, or fat chance?

Al Gore, having won an Emmy, an Oscar and now the Nobel Peace Prize, is on a roll. There’s just one prize left that many would like to see him claim that has eluded him — one that he came within a hanging chad’s breadth of receiving in 2000. It’s a sign not only of his popularity but also of the rising sense of panic among Democrats that they seem destined for a ticket headed by Hillary Clinton. The [grumblings] in the lefty media about how to stop our gal from Illinois Arkansas New York began about the time that wunderkind Barack Obama started showing [signs of flagging] in his media-fueled race for the nomination. Suddenly [stories] about the nascent Draft Gore movement increased in frequency and, now with the Nobel win, have reached a fevered pace. CNN [reports] on the pressure on him to join the race (including a hilarious quote from Jimmy Carter, who has been badgering him for so long on the issue that Gore finally had to ask Carter to stop calling his house), while the Washington Post [raises questions] about whether he could successfully raise enough money this late in the primary run-up. That would certainly be a significant obstacle to overcome were he to decide to join the race, but I think there’s an even bigger factor weighing against him, so to speak: he’s too fat to be president.

The Presidential Body Mass Index (PBMI)

[Click to view] chart of US presidents ranked according to their Body Mass Index

In these politically correct times it just won’t do to directly address the 800 pound gorilla in the room — let me phrase that another way — to bring up something that we’re all thinking: would a nation of weight-challenged voters elect one of their own to the White House? Or do they prefer to select as their leader someone of leaner mien? Thankfully, we can avoid the political minefields by retreating to the comforting impartiality of mathematics and let the numbers tell us. Starting from a collection of presidential heights and BMIs found [here], I filled in a few gaps and added Mr. Gore to the list. His height is well known to be 6′ 1”, but his weight seems to be a closely-held secret. I guesstimated from photos that he is probably in the neighborhood of 270, which would give him a BMI of 36 — well above the threshold for obesity — and just behind President William Howard Taft, our only president to resemble a small natural satellite. In fact, it places Big Al more than two standard deviations from the mean of 25.8. When I studied statistics in college any datum more than two standard deviations from the mean was considered an “outlier”, not representative of the population under consideration and safely ignored. That’s not good news for the Gore Drafters (Draft Gorers?).

The Goldilocks Effect – Not Too Big, Not Too Little

It isn’t that Americans prefer their presidents to be tiny — on the contrary, the median BMI of 25.4 is quite close to the mean and both numbers hover in the “slightly overweight” range. We are just as unlikely to favor the very diminutive Chief Executive — represented on the chart by the elfin James Madison who, according to presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, presented his State of the Union messages from a mahogany high chair1 and, on more than one occasion, was seen at state dinners to curl up inside a tea cup and fall fast asleep2. No, we like our presidents to be a bit tall and a bit portly — “successful looking” my grandmother would’ve said. It’s not merely coincidental I think that two men who fall very close to the average are Dwight Eisenhower and George Washington — former soldiers who were tall and strong and looked like they were very successful. Good news for John McCain.

All is not lost for the Gore hopefuls, of course. Weight is a variable thing and just because Al is too big now doesn’t mean he’d still be too big by the time the general election rolled around. It’s not too late to hit the gym and the jogging track — the best indicator of whether Gore plans to run for the White House or not may be whether we see him running in sweatpants first.

 

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1. I totally made this up.
2. I made this up, too.

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