In a well-reasoned piece in Bloomberg, Dave Weigel suggests that Democrats have put themselves in a tough position with their initial, panicked response to the discovery of the first six plus videos featuring MIT professor Jonathan Gruber making impolitic but honest statements about the Affordable Care Act and the intelligence of the American voter.
“I don’t know who he is,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi unconvincingly replied when asked about the prolific health care policy wonk.
“The fact that an adviser who was never on our staff expressed an opinion that I completely disagree with in terms of the voters is not a reflection on the actual process that was run,” Barack Obama later insisted.
“It’s sad to me that good political journalists are spending so much time on these irrelevant comments by this guy Gruber,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) fired off in a tweet nearly as dismissive and condescending as the Gruber’s original comments.
“[T]o deny Gruber is to deny the history of how the Affordable Care Act was sold,” Weigel wrote. “And while Republicans are happy to do that, Democrats have no contingency plan to explain the law in a Gruber-less world.”
The more honest Democrats with ties to the White House know they’re caught in a trap, and struggling will only make the snare grow tighter.
With that grim reality in mind, Barack Obama’s “Car Czar,” Steve Rattner, appeared on MSNBC on Tuesday where he did the White House no favors amid their increasingly flailing effort to create some artificial distance between the administration and the policy analyst to whom they are so inexorably tied.
“I think if you go back to The Washington Post or The New York Times, or anything from that period, you will find Jonathan Gruber’s name all over it,” Rattner said.
The Weekly Standard’s John McCormack apparently took Rattner’s advice. When New York Magazine columnist Jonathan Chait conceded that “Gruber designed Obamacare conceptually” but that “he played no direct role in writing the law,” McCormack noted that the Times reported quite the opposite.
“After Mr. Gruber helped the administration put together the basic principles of the proposal, the White House lent him to Capitol Hill to help Congressional staff members draft the specifics of the legislation,” New York Times reporter Catherine Rampell wrote in 2012.
Even Rattner noted that Gruber’s fingerprints are all over this legislation, and the administration’s allies who are engaged in an uphill battle to rewrite history will ultimately see their efforts wasted. The former lead advisor to the president overseeing the auto bailout conceded that the scandal is not that Gruber helped craft the Affordable Care Act, but that he has a uniquely dim view of the public he was serving and that the White House has responded to that revelation by insulting the public’s intelligence further.
“The problem is not that Gruber helped them put Obamacare together, because he was the man,” Rattner continued. “The problem is what he’s said in the last two weeks, and how the White House has handled it.”
In a piece highly lauded on the left, The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn attempted to deconstruct the controversy around Gruber’s remarks.
He began: “The controversy over Jonathan Gruber, the MIT economist and Obamacare ‘architect’ who talked about the ‘stupidity of American voters,’ seems to be losing a bit of energy.”
You could be forgiven for quitting there.