For everyone familiar with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's brand of smashmouth politics, it seemed like the case of the quarantined nurse was tailor made for him. There he was, up against the White House, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Kaci Hickox, who had spent a month in Sierra Leone treating Ebola patients and was the first person in New Jersey to be subject to a mandatory 21-day quarantine. (He said she was ill. She said she wasn't.)
But Christie, used to having the stage and the microphone, hadn't dealt with the likes of Hickox before. She went on the airwaves to blast the policy, taking on Christie in a series of interviews conducted from a tent where she was kept in isolation. "It is not a sound public health decision and well thought out," Hickox said during an interview with CNN. "Many of the experts in the field have come out to agree with me. So I think that we need to stress the fact that we don't need politicians to make these kinds of decisions. We need public health experts to make these decisions."
We've seen this movie before, where Christie seemed only to be emboldened by such a fight, challenging teachers and reporters and any manner of person who went up against him. And yes, often this approach had been directed at women. At a rally for Mitt Romney, a woman heckled Christie, shouting something about job numbers going down. Not skipping a beat, he shouted right back in his New Jersey way: "You know, something may be going down tonight but it ain’t gonna be jobs, sweetheart."
The theater of it all had become his biggest asset and biggest liability.
And at first, it seemed like Christie was on pace to win this round as well. It allowed him a kind of reverse Hurricane Sandy -- he had embraced President Obama in the run-up to the 2012 election after the storm did extensive damage to the Garden State, and had come under heavy criticism from Republicans for doing so. This time Christie was very publicly breaking with Obama.
"I don't believe when you're dealing with something as serious as this that we can count on a voluntary system," he said Sunday on Fox News. "The government's job is to protect [the] safety and health of our citizens. And so we've taken this action, and I absolutely have no second thoughts about it."
Except now he is having second thoughts, and Hickox has been released. (Christie still took a shot at her, however. “I’m hopeful that this morning if all goes well we’ll be able to release her and send her back to Maine,” he told the New York Times.)
Nurse, 1. Christie, 0.