In October 2014, after just one day of planning, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) imposed a mandatory, 21-day quarantine on those who had contact with Ebola patients in West Africa. It was this policy of course, that put nurse Kaci Hickox in a tent for a few days.
As we discussed at the time, Christie seemed quite impressed with himself. Two days after the imposition of the policy, the governor boasted that he had “absolutely … no second thoughts” about it. He brushed aside criticisms from CDC specialists – experts “don’t want to admit that we’re right and they’re wrong,” Christie boasted – and he insisted that his public-safety policy would quickly become the national model.
Christie had no idea what he was talking about. Not long after, Hickox was released; the policy was scrapped; no states followed his lead; and the governor’s office quickly preferred to pretend the whole incident never happened.
About a year later, the public stopped being afraid of Ebola and started being afraid of Syrian refugees, prompting the scandal-plagued governor to announce a brand new policy: a month ago yesterday, Christie sent a letter to President Obama informing the White House that he would direct the New Jersey Department of Human Services not to participate in the resettlement of any Syrian refugees.
And how’d that turn out? Politico reported yesterday:
[T]he highly publicized letter appears to have been the extent of his action in terms of that direction. Several requests filed through the state’s Open Public Records Act indicate that Christie never filed a written directive to the department.When asked whether the directive that was referenced in Christie’s letter to the president existed, one OPRA custodian told POLITICO New Jersey that the Department of Human Services never received a document.
The oddity of a story like this is that the Republican candidate’s failure to follow through seems like a good thing.
Christie’s blowhard posturing towards refugees was shameful, but in this case, it was also hollow rhetoric – the governor never got around to implementing the wrong policy he vowed to champion. TNR’s Elizabeth Bruenig joked, “[T]he record should reflect that Christie doesn’t even have the courage of his bad convictions.”
Coupled with last year’s Ebola nonsense, a picture emerges of a presidential hopeful who responds to irrational panic with irresponsible bluster and misguided policies he doesn’t take seriously.