Looks like another storm is brewing in Washington, this one over the girth of Dr. Regina Benjamin, President Obama's nominee for surgeon general. This storm, like so many before it, began forming in that tornado alley of popular opinion: talk radio, the blogosphere, and, of course, Fox News.
No one is questioning the credentials of Dr. Benjamin, whose career in medicine has been marked by philanthropy, and numerous achievements and accolades. What her critics are focusing on is Dr. Benjamin's weight: they say she is "too fat" to be surgeon general.
There was this priceless moment, for instance, when Fox's Neil Cavuto interviewed a critic who appeared on camera sporting a "No Chubbies" T-shirt. Talking Points Memo, which posted the video, went on to point out that Cavuto's guest was Michael Karolchyk, owner of an outfit in Denver called the Anti-Gym, a "fitness club" that promotes getting in shape for sex.
Bloggers were busy speculating about Dr. Benjamin's weight, guessing that she was 40 to 50 pounds overweight and probably a size 18 or 20. Some agreed with the likes of Karolchyk that her weight would send the wrong message, while others defended her and hinted that the criticism of her nomination had undercurrents of racism and sexism.
So what, exactly, does the surgeon general do that would make being overweight a disqualifier? According to the office's Web site, the U.S. surgeon general "serves as America's chief health educator by providing Americans the best scientific information available on how to improve their health and reduce the risk of illness and injury."
So Dr. Benjamin's role would be that of an educator, not an aerobics instructor.
In that role, perhaps Dr. Benjamin's weight might prove an asset, allowing her to better connect with the American public as the surgeon general takes on the problem of obesity. That, I suppose, would all depend on how she approached the issue.
Meanwhile, I have to think that a lot of the criticism over her weight is just so much mean-spirited blather.