“Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical for the thing to pass. …”

—Prof. Jonathan Gruber, October 2013.

Jonathan Gruber, an MIT economist, helped the Democrats design the Affordable Care Act. The quote comes from a video clip showing this kind and wise man speaking before an academic audience; explaining how the ACA “was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO [the Congressional Budget Office] did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies.”

He is clear and explicit, i.e., there are some things American voters must not hear. They might understand and disapprove.

Shortly after the video clip, discovered and circulated by an obscure investment adviser named Rich Weinstein, went viral, Gruber showed up on MSNBC, where he told Ronan Farrow that “the comments in the video were made at an academic conference. I was speaking off the cuff and I basically spoke inappropriately and I regret having made those comments.”

There’s no good reason to doubt that the professor regretted telling the truth. And no one can justly condemn him for telling the truth in front of an audience of his academic peers, but it was severely “inappropriate” to allow someone to record his remarks. He did not deny the need and advantages of deception. He did not withdraw his low assessment of the intelligence of the American voter. It appears, however, that he regrets hurting the feelings of the American voters. He never intended to do that.

Farrow tried to ease his guest’s regrets by pointing out that he was simply being “nuanced.” This is something professors are allowed to do. And, after all, the process had to be “opaque” to facilitate passage of the Affordable Care Act so that Nancy Pelosi and her colleagues could discover what they voted for.

Fox & Friends, interviewing Angus King a little later, was less helpful. Our senator seemed a little stiff at the start, as if he felt he was entering hostile territory. He relaxed when asked if he intended to continue caucusing with the Democrats now that they were no longer in the majority. He was ready for that and spoke with customary glibness about his sturdy independence, moderation, devotion to Maine — all the usual.

Things got a bit strained when they played the Gruber clip, and Brian Kilmeade explained: “So he’s basically saying that he didn’t tell the truth when the law was passed; neither did Democrats when they put it forward. Your reaction to that? Are you as outraged as most of America?”

King was caught off-guard and floundered about like an undergraduate caught in a dodge. He dismissed Gruber as a nobody who didn’t matter. Claimed that there was a vigorous debate and everybody knew all they had to know. Denied that there was a deep, dark conspiracy. In sum, King did not defend the intelligence of the American voter and made no argument in favor of transparency. He fluffed, flubbed and evaded by an appeal to sentiment that left the issue of deceit untouched. Here’s the relevant sample:

King: “Wait a minute, wait a minute. Tax and penalize, hold it, hold it, hold it. We’ve got eight million people that have insurance now that didn’t before and don’t lecture me about this because 40 years ago, I had insurance. If I hadn’t had it, it caught a cancer that saved my life. If I hadn’t had insurance I’d be dead…”

Kilmeade: “What does that have to do with it?”

Guilfoyle: “But that doesn’t have anything to do with it.”

King: “It does. It has to do with having insurance, man. If you don’t have insurance, it’s a high risk. “

Kilmeade: “They just lied about a health plan to the American people, called the stupidity of the American voter and bragged about the lack of transparency”.

King: “This is one guy. I don’t know who this guy was. All I know is that it’s important for people to have health insurance. And if you guys are saying people shouldn’t have health insurance, I don’t know where you’re coming from.”

Guilfoyle: “That’s not what we’re saying, sir.”

King: “Are you that cruel? That is what you’re saying.”

If the senator’s gabble-gabble means anything, it means that he’s OK with lying when it’s necessary and kind-hearted.

John Frary of Farmington is a former congressional candidate and retired history professor, a board member of Maine Taxpayers United and publisher of www.fraryhomecompanion.com. Email to [email protected].


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