“Happy Days” Are Here Again

By Natalie Gewargis

Aug 6, 2008 9:54am

The Wall Street Journal’s Amy Chozic wrote a piece earlier this month called "Too Fit to Be President?" in which she pondered whether in a country "in which 66% of the voting-age population is overweight and 32% is obese, could Sen. Obama’s skinniness be a liability? Despite his visits to waffle houses, ice-cream parlors and greasy-spoon diners around the country, his slim physique just might have some Americans wondering whether he is truly like them."

That elicited a column from a writer at Slate, accusing Chozic of being "clueless" for not realizing that her column about Obama’s fitness would be interpreted as a "coded discussion on race."

"When ‘Skinny’ Means ‘Black,”’ in fact, is the name of the column by Tim Noah, which notes that a "Slate colleague informs me that an episode of the TV sitcom Happy Days (‘Fonzie’s New Friend’) had its 1950s-era characters nervously discussing the fact that a black man in their midst was so … skinny. Was it true that skinny people liked fried chicken? That they were good at basketball? And so on. …

“The sad fact is that any discussion of Obama’s physical appearance is going to remind white people of the physical characteristic that’s most on their minds. Better either to leave the whole topic alone, it seems to me, or to address the question of racial prejudice head-on…. In the future, the press would be wise to avoid discussing how ordinary Americans will respond to the size of Obama’s ears, the thickness of Obama’s eyebrows, and so on.”

Discussion question (throwing it out there, not my opinion necessarily, just here it is, lets have some talk about it):

Some commentators — not the Obama campaign, mind you, but their supporters in the blabbocracy — are trying to take entire subjects of discussion off the table by insinuating there is a racial subtext. Discussion of Obama’s tremendous self-regard = calling him "uppity." And now the suggestion that we can’t discuss the physical fitness of a presidential candidate who works out six days a week without that being seen in some liberal quarters as code.

Bonus questions: Is there any connection between the blue collar appeal of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, and Happy Days’ Leather Tuscadero? Could the new campaign tactics of Sen. John McCain be accurately described as a “Malachi crunch”?

- jpt

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