When Kaci Hickox stood up to Governor Chris Christie for quarantining her against her will and claiming she was “obviously ill” when she wasn’t, she did more than bring a little sanity to our Ebola-panic politics. She also struck a blow for all the teachers, nurses, public employees, minimum-wagers and workers of all kinds that Christie has bullied, belittled and silenced over the years. It was a sweet sight, and now she may be doing the same to another out-of-control, authoritarian governor, Paul LePage of Maine.
Hickox, a 33-year-old nurse from Fort Kent, Maine, has advantages that so many of Christie’s victims have not: a platform with the whole world’s attention on her for longer than the initial public encounter and, at least for now, widespread public sympathy. She also had photos of the plastic tent that Christie had confined her in, and its outhouse-like toilet. Even some conservatives could relate: her freedom was taken by government jackbooted thugs (though this time they were from New Jersey, not from Obama; he wanted her released). She word-whipped Christie succinctly: “I am not, as he said, ‘obviously ill.’ I am completely healthy and with no symptoms. And if he knew anything about Ebola he would know that asymptomatic people are not infectious.”
Facing the possibility that an articulate and courageous nurse might unman him, Christie allowed Hickox to return home to Maine. For that, Rush Limbaugh slammed him for being a serial Obama-hugging weakling: “And so one week before the election, once again New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has caved and is seen as—we need to quarantine Chris Christie, is what needs to happen here, folks.”
Embracing Obama is one viral image that Christie, almost certainly running for president in 2016, simply cannot allow to spread. So he’s been trying to re-he-man up, which in this case he can do only by lying. He’s been insisting that he and his gubernatorial partner, Andrew Cuomo of New York, didn’t cave on enforcing their mandatory twenty-one-day quarantine for healthcare workers returning from West Africa. “Our policy hasn’t changed and our policy will not change,” Christie told Matt Lauer yesterday. To get away with that whopper, he had to lie again about Hickox’s health, offering the medical equivalent of pretending that the George Washington Bridge was closed for a “traffic study.” Josh Marshall dissects the deceptions:
[Christie] said she would only have been forced to remain in isolation, “if she continued to be ill. She hadn’t had any symptoms for 24 hours and she tested negative for Ebola. The reason she was put in the hospital in the first place was because she was running a high fever and she was symptomatic.… The minute she was no longer symptomatic she was released.” [Emphasis added.]