Chris Christie, with the cooperation of his crypto-Republican pal Andrew Cuomo, has now made evil Doctors Without Borders volunteers into the new enemies of All Decent People:
On Thursday night, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo sat beside Mayor Bill de Blasio at Bellevue Hospital Center as they offered soothing words to worried New Yorkers: New York City’s first case of Ebola, they said, was no reason for panic.The first person caught in the dragnet was a nurse named Kaci Hickox, who was returning to Newark Airport from Sierra Leone when the hammer came down. Hickox, who attended the University of Texas at Arlington, has written a Dallas Morning News op-ed in which she describes a seven-hour airport ordeal during which she was rarely informed of what was going on and was treated with intense suspicion, even though she has no Ebola synptoms:
Less than 19 hours later, Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, joined the Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, and struck a starkly different tone. The governors announced Friday that medical personnel returning to New York after treating Ebola patients in West Africa would be automatically subject to a 21-day quarantine.
One after another, people asked me questions. Some introduced themselves, some didn't. One man who must have been an immigration officer because he was wearing a weapon belt that I could see protruding from his white coveralls barked questions at me as if I was a criminal.Well, of course. The people in charge are in Trenton and Albany. The people yanking this nurse's chain are just doing what they're told.
Two other officials asked about my work in Sierra Leone. One of them was from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They scribbled notes in the margins of their form, a form that appeared to be inadequate for the many details they are collecting.
I was tired, hungry and confused, but I tried to remain calm. My temperature was taken using a forehead scanner and it read a temperature of 98. I was feeling physically healthy but emotionally exhausted.
Three hours passed. No one seemed to be in charge. No one would tell me what was going on or what would happen to me.
They get a fever reading from a forehead thermometer; Hickox explains, in vain, that that could reflect nothing more than flushing deriving from her anxiety and frustration -- as subsequently turns out to be the case when, several hours later, her temperature registers normal and an Ebola blood test comes up negative. But by that time, she's effectively under arrest:
At around 7 p.m., I was told that I must go to a local hospital. I asked for the name and address of the facility. I realized that information was only shared with me if I asked.(Eight squad cars? Seriously? That was really necessary? But you've got to give Christie this: he has a sense of theater. All the best pols do -- as do the most dangerous ones.)
Eight police cars escorted me to the University Hospital in Newark. Sirens blared, lights flashed. Again, I wondered what I had done wrong....
At the hospital, I was escorted to a tent that sat outside of the building. The infectious disease and emergency department doctors took my temperature and other vitals and looked puzzled. "Your temperature is 98.6," they said. "You don't have a fever but we were told you had a fever."Also: a tent? Is this the long-term plan for dealing with such cases? In January, too?
After my temperature was recorded as 98.6 on the oral thermometer, the doctor decided to see what the forehead scanner records. It read 101. The doctor felts my neck and looked at the temperature again. "There's no way you have a fever," he said. "Your face is just flushed."
My blood was taken and tested for Ebola. It came back negative.
But there won't be cases, because volunteers won't fly back into America. They'll either decide it's not worth the trouble to go help out where they're needed or fly back through Canada and drive rental cars into the States. Fox News is available in Canada only on satellite, and the government is conservative, so the country doesn't have to pander to the panicked as demagogues drown out voices of reason -- Canada will impose quarantine on sick passengers, but, so far, not on the healthy. So doctors and nurses will almost certainly evade the U.S. quarantines if they really want to volunteer in the hot zone. Until that gets shut down, of course.
I get it, though. This is good politics for Cuomo (who's up for reelection in nine days) and for Christie (who still thinks he can be president). “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it” is Saul Alinsky's 12th Rule for Radicals. Conservatives, who love Alinsky, love this rule in particular because they love identifying enemies and defining themselves as the opponents of those enemies. They'd say their opponent in this case is the virus. I think it's the doctor who bowled and the nurse who complained.
A side note on the fear factor: Joyce Wadler has an article in the Style section of today's New York Times about her 87-year-old mother's recent stroke. Wadler tells us her mother is quite physically and mentally impaired -- though not completely:
When the doctor asks what year it is, she says 1914. Her politics, however, remain intact.Wadler's mother, you see, is one of the many older people in America who lives on a steady diet of Fox News. And here are the consequences:
"Who's the president, Mrs. Wadler?" the doctor asks.
"Obama, the big liar," Ma says.
“They're torturing me here," my mother tells them, as Fox News, to which she has fallen asleep for years, plays silently in the background. "I've got Ebola. I have ISIS."Ailes and Murdoch, if there's an afterlife and a God, this is what you'll have to answer for.
My best friend, Herb, who has flown in from New York after my brothers have to leave, ... figures it out. The crawl on Fox is shooting out scare words and Ma's brain has them linked.
"ISIS isn't a disease, it's a terrorist group, Milli," says Herb, who has known my mother for 40 years.
"I've got ISIS," Ma insists. "I'm gonna make them test me."