On Tuesday, well reputed Harvard educated and MIT economics professor, Jonathan Gruber was called to Capitol Hill by Republicans to clarify statements he made regarding the construction of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obama Care. Gruber, a member of the team that authored the Act, had made comments that appeared to suggest that the construction of the Act was informed by subterfuge and deception. As it turned out, his Capitol Hill accounting was less an opportunity to explain himself than a very public attempt by Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to eviscerate and humiliate Gruber.
Not that anyone would take issue with the public humiliation as his, in his own words, “glib, thoughtless and . . . inexcusable language” served to offend both Democrats and Republicans alike. In calling the American voter “stupid” Gruber set himself up as the perfect foil for Republicans eager to create political momentum to overturn the Act and to perhaps influence the U.S Supreme Court in eventually overturning the Act. Reports are that the White House as well as the Democrat establishment were trying to not only distance themselves from Gruber, but to paint him as a minor player in the construction of the Affordable Care Act.
As the grilling and Republican attempt to eviscerate played out it was clear that Gruber had been counseled to be humble, apologetic and conciliatory. Contrary to the image he portrayed in the offending clips, Gruber came across as passive, weak and ignorant. He went so far as to beg for understanding and sympathy as he claimed he spoke as he did in order to look smart. Then, in a moment that serves as a working metaphor for the day Gruber was having, Rep. Trey Gowdy, Republican from South Carolina, responded with part question, part blast:
“You’re a professor at MIT, and you’re worried about not looking smart enough?”
Gruber’s response was the stuff of pure humiliation. In a moment the eminently watchable arrogance and self-promotion of an Ivy League great that had been on display in the offending clips was reduced to cover-the-eyes pathos. Gruber’s response was a simple, “yes.” The drama was palpable as Republicans across the country cheered.
Gruber’s high profile presence on Capitol Hill, especially on a slow news day, poses a number of problems for Obama and the Democrat establishment. Much in the way of resources and political capital went into in the passage and now administration of the Affordable Care Act. Republican momentum is building for what appears to be a formidable threat to the Act itself. Cases continue to roll through the courts to strike down the constitutionality of the Act.
Gruber’s comments give wind to those sails and with comments suggesting that “tortured” language was used to obfuscate and then ultimately trick both congressional budget experts and the American public into thinking that the admitted tax was not in fact a tax at all, Gruber set himself up for a dramatic fall from grace. For all of Gruber’s bravado and self-promoted erudition, in the end, it was Gruber who appeared the most “tortured.” As it turned out, Gruber did not need the Republicans to eviscerate him after-all, he was quite capable of doing that himself.
Opinion By: Matthew R. Fellows
Photo By Matt Churchill – Flickr License