In battle of grandstanding nurse vs. grandstanding Gov, Christie comes out grinning

I should note Noah wrote about this earlier, but I wanted to add a little of my weirdo civil libertarian take to the mix.

First of all, nurse Kaci Hickox certainly out-grandstanded Gov. Chris Christie on this. Though the governor’s Jersey pedigree, propensity for brash behavior and loud pronouncements have earned him a reputation as a showy executive, he was on fairly solid political ground quarantining Hickox after a voluntary quarantine of another exposed person in New Jersey led to her eating dinner out in Princeton.

I’m a little torn on this. If you’re a health worker treating Ebola patients, you’re in a special-responsibility profession that has undertaken certain risks and must observe special precautions when you come home. On the other hand, we are a free country, and a health worker should be given access to proper representation and recourse if she feels she’s being deprived of her civil liberties. And, on the other other hand, good Lord, Kaci, this does not appear to be simply about your civil liberties. Do the rest of us a solid! You seem like a bit of a loon who is making it extremely tough for normal people to empathize with you.

New Jersey is Team Christie:

A couple weeks back, it looked a bit like the bully had been bullied, with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) releasing nurse Kaci Hickox from a precautionary Ebola quarantine after she demanded he do so.

Turns out, the real winner here — politically, at least — is Chris Christie.

A new poll from Monmouth University shows New Jerseyans approve of his handling of the Ebola situation 53 percent to 27 percent — about two-to-one. The federal government’s response, by contrast, earns negative marks at 37 percent approval and 46 percent disapproval.

In addition, Christie’s constituents approve 67-19 of quarantining Hickox after she landed at Newark Airport.

Where Christie gets more mixed results is in his decision to release Hickox, amid pressure, to a quarantine in her home in Maine — a quarantine that she later flouted. Thirty-eight percent approve of Christie’s decision here, while 40 percent disapprove.

At the same time, it appears Christie’s tough, abundance-of-caution move to quarantine anybody like Hickox is what is driving support for him on this issue, and it reinforces the fact that — despite cautions from the White House and experts that such moves are counter-productive — people are very much looking for the kind of approach Christie took from their public officials.

Unsurprisingly, the polls show Christie was in the right with the public. Again, I’m torn. Of course there is no political downside to taking extreme precautions in the face of weird, rare, scary threats like Ebola. On the other hand, though I’m pretty solidly Team Christie on this, I wish the American people did incentivize level-headed responses to weird, rare, scary threats instead of so enthusiastically rewarding overreactions. Again, I’m not sure the treatment of Hickox was an overreaction; I just worry about a climate in which restricting for SECURITY is always the right political decision. That’s not always safe for liberty. But I’m glad Kaci’s not the hero in this story.