Jonathan Gruber’s Disastrous Congressional Testimony

It was awful beyond imagining. Behold a snippet:

This little political skirmish was Jonathan Gruber’s Little Bighorn moment in which he didn’t play the role of Sitting Bull. Gowdy owned the debate–and Gruber–not only because he is a much more skilled and adept verbal interlocutor than is Gruber (who desperately grasps for the saving power of talking points he repeats over and over again the way a drowning man would desperately grasp at the life preserver that is just . . . out . . . of . . . reach), but also because Gowdy had the truth and the facts on his side. Those statements Gruber is sorry for saying? He said them over and over and over and over and over again. He would repeat them in the future were he not now on his guard to watch his mouth. Gruber’s claims that he never meant what he said? Ridiculous; the more one says something, the more others may reasonably be led to believe that he meant that thing. And of course, as Gowdy and Darrell Issa point out, Gruber’s comments were made to an entirely sympathetic audience; Gruber cannot recall a single person who went up to him after his presentations and said something along the lines of “you know, what you said was remarkably inappropriate and out of line, and fundamentally offensive,” showing that Jonathan Gruber was not the only person to buy into Jonathan Gruber’s comments.

Equally ridiculous are Gruber’s claims that he is some kind of political neophyte. He may commit Kinsleyan gaffes like they are going out of style, but Gruber has advised multiple state governments on health care reform, and got paid $400,000 by the Obama administration to serve as a consultant as well. Even if Gruber did just try to make himself sound glib and clever, that in no way mitigates the offensive nature of his comments or the degree to which he made life next-to-impossible for his political friends. And of course, it is worth reminding ourselves of two final points: (1) Gruber is not sorry for what he said. He is sorry for having been caught. There is a difference. (2) It was Gruber who said that the federal subsidies for Obamacare were designed to get states to set up their own health insurance exchanges. This entirely undercuts the pro-Obamacare argument in King v. Burwell that the health insurance subsidies were supposed to be paid out irrespective of whether states set up their own health insurance exchanges. You cannot simultaneously claim that the subsidies were to serve as an incentive to set up health insurance exchanges AND that the subsidies would be paid out regardless of whether the incentive worked.

John Podhoretz:

Gruber tried to eat humble pie Tues­day as he appeared before a House committee to explain video footage that emerged a few months ago in which he repeatedly and with great braggadocio said ObamaCare had been consciously and deceitfully designed to mask its cost and reach. But he seemed more to be choking on it.

Gruber affected abject contrition — “I tried to make myself seem smarter by demeaning others,” he said sorrowfully.

Oh, sure. By all accounts, Gruber is one of the smartest people alive, even if he has proved to be among the most foolish, and it’s doubtful he has ever found it necessary to make himself feel smarter.

But his affect soon curdled into a trembling combination of fear and rage that seemed more of a fit with the almost insanely arrogant person caught on videotape over three years speaking about the wondrous scam he and the administration had pulled on the “American voter” due to said voter’s “stupidity” and “lack of economic understanding.”

Hyman Roth, the fictional mastermind of Mafia finance, tells reporters in “The Godfather Part II” that “I’m a retired investor living on a pension.” Similarly, Hyman Gruber, the self-appointed mastermind of ObamaCare, yesterday told members of Congress he was not “the architect of ObamaCare” and “not a political adviser” but merely an ordinary guy, an average Joe, a lunch-pail economist, who did “microsimulations” to help determine the outcomes of various policies.

“I sincerely apologize both for conjecturing with a tone of expertise and for doing so in such a disparaging fashion,” he said.

The assertion that “conjecturing” about ObamaCare was beyond his expertise, even though he is universally acknowledged to have been a key influence on its structure, was so laughable, it was no wonder he spat the words out as though they were ash and wormwood on his tongue.

Want to judge Obamacare and the political process that led to its passage and implementation? You could do worse than to examine the comments and behavior of the law’s chief architect.

Comments

  1. I have a somewhat mixed reaction to this whole story. On the one hand, Gruber was simply telling the truth—his one error, possibly due to arrogance, was describing voters as stupid instead of as rationally ignorant.

    On the other hand, saying it, repeatedly, when he knew he was being recorded, was really stupid.

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