‘Context’ Is No Excuse For Obamacare Architect Jonathan Gruber’s Defense Of Deception
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‘Context’ Is No Excuse For Obamacare Architect Jonathan Gruber’s Defense Of Deception

Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber was videotaped in 2013 saying that deception was a key factor in the passage of the legislation in 2010. That talk was put on YouTube this week:

“This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies.”

He explained, “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, you know, call it the ‘stupidity of the American voter’ or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.”

This is not minor news. To set the stage, let’s go back to July, when a D.C. Circuit Court ruled that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act does not authorize subsidies if insurance plans aren’t part of a state-based Obamacare exchange. This “Halbig” ruling has now been taken up by the Supreme Court.

When the first “Halbig” ruling came down, progressive fans of Obamacare continued to argue that it was insane to think that this was a clear reading of the legislation. Then video came out showing legislation author Gruber making exactly the same argument made by the attorneys fighting this issue. He made those comments at a time when Obamacare proponents were trying to force states to set up exchanges and before most states declined to. Gruber responded by claiming he’d had a “speak-o,” which is like a typo but in verbal form. The full video shows a strikingly extensive and thought-out discussion, but the speak-o claim was much easier to swallow before yet another video came out showing him making the exact same “speak-o,” this time in prepared remarks.

And so now Gruber is videotaped saying that deception was a key factor in tricking stupid American voters into allowing their members of Congress to narrowly pass the controversial bill.

And what does our media have to say about it? Surprisingly little! It was certainly covered — by NewsBusters, Rush Limbaugh, Daily Caller, Forbes, Fox News, Daily Signal, HotAir, The Blaze, Washington Free Beacon, etc. — but almost exclusively by conservative media or media that has not shown complete fealty to President Obama.

And let’s look at the only exceptions. Note the Washington Post headline: “Obamacare consultant under fire for ‘stupidity of the American voter’ comment.” The headline is not that Obamacare architect said deception was key to its passage but that he’s under fire for saying American voters are stupid (note that the headline highlights not the worst thing he said). This is classic so-called mainstream media positioning. Rather than simply report the news, report on conservative reaction to same. Or as Brian Faughnan put it:

— Brian Faughnan (@BrianFaughnan) November 11, 2014

The piece itself is stunning in its lack of dispassioned reasoning. Reporter Jose A. DelReal writes:

Economist Jonathan Gruber, one of the Obama administration's consultants on the Affordable Care Act, is under attack from conservatives for comments he made last year in which he seemingly said the "stupidity of the American voter" was a factor in passing Obamacare in 2010.

Seemingly? Why seemingly? Or, why “seemingly” here and not in every story where people are quoted saying actual words?

Later he writes:

Gruber's remarks have been greeted by the law's critics as an admission of intentionally deceiving the American public about the law in 2010. But given the context of the remarks, Gruber seems to be speaking specifically about how and why the law's funding mechanisms were framed as they were when the law was being written.

Come again? It wasn’t deception because it was about … framing? Walk me through that one, DelReal. I want to understand. Or, as David Freddoso said:

— David Freddoso (@freddoso) November 11, 2014

I would show you more mainstream accounts of this deception but I can’t find it. I might note that after President Obama said that if you like your insurance plan you can keep it — at least 36 times, later dubbed the “lie of the year” — the New York Times wrote:

Congressional Republicans have stoked consumer fears and confusion with charges that the health care reform law is causing insurers to cancel existing policies and will force many people to pay substantially higher premiums next year for coverage they don’t want. That, they say, violates President Obama’s pledge that if you like the insurance you have, you can keep it. Mr. Obama clearly misspoke when he said that.

Misspoke. Misspoke.

Anywho, let’s now take a trip over to Snopes, which decided that completely destroying its credibility was a good move for the week. First, Snopes writes up the “claim” in this way: “Claim: “Obamacare architect” Jonathan Gruber recently said Obamacare only passed due to the “stupidity” of the American voter and a lack of “transparency,” and video footage of his remarks was deleted from the internet.

Then, stunningly, it describes it as a mixture of truth and non-truth. The only thing we need to add to our discussion at this point is that for some reason the footage was taken down briefly — and I can’t say why:

— Lachlan Markay (@lachlan) November 10, 2014

Was it some kind of technical snafu? Did they take the video down and then someone realized how much worse it would look to hide the evidence and it was quickly put back up? I have no idea. But it was down when I checked it yesterday at the time of Lachlan Markey’s tweet.

Instead, Snopes writes:

While the newly-circulated video of Gruber's remarks is unedited, the comments are neither recent nor complete, and whether the originating source attempted to pull them from the Internet at one point remains unclear.

What the what? So it’s a mixture of truth and untruth because these remarks weren’t made yesterday, even if they were publicized for the first time yesterday? The video might not show what it clearly shows because it’s a year old? And because people quoted from them — as all news reports do all the time — rather than posting the entire exchange? The video is both unedited but not complete? I don’t even understand what any of this means. What the heck is Snopes saying?

I mean, I want a world where Snopes can help me by being authoritative — where if someone sends me an internet rumor that is unsourced, I can check it out at Snopes or direct my correspondent to Snopes to check it out. When Snopes takes totally verifiable, completely true news and says it’s not, that hurts everyone. Is anything on Snopes true? And why would they do such damage to their credibility here?

Mollie Ziegler Hemingway is a senior editor at The Federalist. Follow her on Twitter at @mzhemingway
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