Sunday, Jun 17, 2018
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Keith Burris


Mac hits hard, but at what cost to himself?

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    Joe McNamara this month and in September, 2006.

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Is a candidate’s weight fair game in an election?

Ask Chris Christie.

Politics is a rough game. Nothing is off limits — not a candidate’s credit report, sex life, or eating and drinking habits. That may be too bad, but, as Mayor Mike Bell is fond of saying, it is what it is.

Joe McNamara has begun to hit Anita Lopez hard. Essentially, he says, she's dirty. She practices cronyism. She's worse in this respect than the current mayor.

Moreover, he says Ms. Lopez is so gun shy of the press, or of any tough questions, that one has to wonder if she would be even less open and forthcoming than Mayor Bell (that would take some doing).

Ms. Lopez has organized labor, but Mr. McNamara is targeting reform-minded voters turned off by the Lopez Jobs for Buddies program and people disillusioned with Mike Bell. Mr. McNamara may also have a core constituency of his own. He is targeting seniors.

Mr. McNamara is confident about the race.

But at odds with Mr. McNamara's substance and confidence is a lack of political traction, thus far. It's a puzzle.

I was not here then, but when Mr. McNamara first came to council he was compared, in looks, to Omar Sharif. The Blade wrote about it. People talked about it. His was an impressive physical presence.

But what a toll politics and council have taken. In the time he has been on council, Mr. McNamara's weight has increased substantially and, at 36, he looks, too much, like a heart attack waiting to happen. If politics is killing him, maybe politics is not worth it.

And if this level of politics is killing him, what would the much tougher job of being mayor do to him?

Mr. McNamara is open about his need to lose weight and so are his friends and allies. The question is: Will he address it?

This health and fitness question may speak to the dynamism of the McNamara campaign thus far — and the lack thereof.

Is that fair? No, it isn’t. All of us face the challenge of getting our lives in order, and in focus, every day. But we are not on the high wire, visible to all. Politicians are. That’s not fair. But that’s how it is. As John F. Kennedy said, speaking of military service, “life is unfair.” Joe McNamara knows this better than most of us.

Mr. McNamara might also be compared to the young Bill Clinton — a brilliant policy guy who is also pragmatic, likes a good fight, and wants to win. And who is politicking too hard and not taking care of himself. Mr. Clinton's various demons compromised his political life, but his weight and diet compromised his life itself. The former president has written and spoken about this at length. He got a very public health wake-up call that Joe McNamara should not wait for. He had to change his life.

It’s not like Mr. McNamara is alone, or the worst of us. A few years ago then-County Commissioner Ben Konop launched his “million-pound challenge,” for Lucas Country, which fizzled but is still a good idea. The data shows that two out of three people in Lucas Country are overweight and 35 percent are obese.

This is the season of politicians with personal demons, it seems. And Mr. McNamara's demon is pretty mild compared to the ones loose in New York City. Or, it might be considered strictly his own business. But Mr. McNamara, unlike, say, D. Michael Collins, could, if elected mayor, and if successful at the job, go on to something higher. Mr. McNamara has many gifts. He could be state attorney general, maybe a member of Congress, maybe even a governor. He should not put that career, or himself, at risk.

Everyone says Bill Clinton is the smartest pol in America today — an indispensable man. Well, he's not jogging out to get a Big Mac and fries any more. He's a vegetarian. If he'd kept jogging on the path he was on, he'd no longer be with us. The indispensable man almost dispensed with himself. Joe Mac, take heed.

Keith C. Burris is associate editor of The Blade.

Contact him at: or 419-724-6266.

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