Consider the two women widely considered the frontrunners for the nomination: former Harvard Law School dean and current Solicitor General Elena Kagan, and federal appellate judge Sonia Sotomayor.
Within hours after the news broke that Souter was resigning, concerns arose that Kagan and Sotomayor might be too fat to replace him. A commentator on the site DemConWatch.com noted that of the three most-mentioned candidates “the oldest (federal judge Diane Wood) is the only one who looks healthy,” while Kagan and Sotomayor “are quite overweight. That’s a risk factor that they may not last too long on the court because of their health.”
At The Washington Monthly, a commentator claimed to have employed a more scientifically rigorous method: “To all the short-sighted libs who are clamoring for the youngest-possible nominee… Right idea, wrong methodology. You want someone who will serve the longest, i.e. with the greatest remaining life expectancy—and that involves more than simple age. I tried assessing their respective health prospects, and ruled out all who even border on overweight. Best choice: Kim McLane Wardlaw, whose ectomorphitude reflects her publicly known aerobic-exercise habits.”
(Wardlaw’s “ectomorphitude” also gets rave reviews at legal gossip site Underneath Their Robes, which describes her as “Heather Locklear in a black robe. This blond Hispanic hottie boasts a fantastic smile and an incredible body, showcased quite nicely by her elegant ensembles.”)
Meanwhile, a letter writer at Salon comments on Sotomayor’s candidacy, “How do you say 55, overweight, and diabetic in Spanish?” (Sotomayor was diagnosed with Type I diabetes—which doesn’t correlate with higher weight—when she was a child).
I don’t think it’s a terrible idea to take health into account when picking a Supreme Court justice — after all, you want someone who will be able to remain on the bench for a long time. But “overweight” does not equal “unhealthy.” And funny how I haven’t heard anyone remark that Scalia is unfit for his job, even though he’s not exactly a slender man. Or that the least healthy of the current Supreme Court justices is probably (sadly) Ginsberg, who is a tiny little woman. Or that a whole slew of justices spent their final years asleep on the bench or totally mentally gone — surely a more problematic situation than just falling over dead one day.
I don’t remember any discussion about Roberts’ or Alito’s health when they were tapped for the bench. And I can’t help but suspect that if the leading candidates were men, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
Thanks to Zuzu for the link.
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- Actually, comparing Sonia Sotomayor to Sarah Palin is kind of insulting by Jill May 28, 2009