Jonathan Gruber’s insightful comments on the passage of Obamacare have lit up Washington for an entire workweek. An MIT economics professor and a key Obamacare adviser, Gruber had told an audience that the health-care law had benefited from a “lack of transparency,” from the “stupidity of the American voter” and from the “tortured” (read: misleading) way in which it was written.
The showdown between Fox News White House bulldog Ed Henry and some White House spokesman was just a matter of time.
That time came yesterday at a briefing at the Thingaha Hotel in Naypyidaw, Burma, where the president was practicing diplomacy. When Henry got his shot at White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, he went directly to the point: Gruber cited a lack of transparency, but this administration promised stupendous transparency. “Why would one of the architects of the law suggest that you were misleading people?” asked Henry. (The exchange starts at 48:41.)
Not capable of speaking for Gruber, Earnest addressed the issue: “The fact of the matter is the process associated with writing and passing and implementing the Affordable Care Act has been extraordinarily transparent. We all sat through many town hall meetings and discussions where this piece of legislation was vigorously debated by people on both sides. There was even a meeting that the president convened at Blair House with Republicans to discuss this policy proposal. It was, as you know, broadcast by C-SPAN.”
Back and forth they went, Henry pushing Gruber’s allegations, Earnest denying them. At one point, Henry asked: “To suggest that voters are stupid and that’s how you passed it, you don’t feel bad about that at all?”
Earnest disputed that assessment and prattled on about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act and argued that the Republicans are the ones who fail the transparency test. “It is Republicans who have been less than forthright and transparent about what their proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act would do in terms of the choices that are available to middle-class families,” argued Earnest. “I know there is at least one very prominent Republican who campaigned for reelection saying that he would repeal the Affordable Care Act, but yet keep in place the Affordable Care Act marketplace that has operated very successfully in his state.”
When such astounding comments from the mouth of an Obamacare architect, the White House must be pressed for its version of events. So Henry is doing righteous work here, and surely he knows that his network will welcome the interrogation. After all, Fox News has devoted 57 segments to the Gruber thing, according to an analysis done by Media Matters for America.
Just how transparent and straightforward was the making of Obamacare? Well, Gruber offers one take on the events. Brian Beutler of the New Republic has another, arguing that it was “one of the most transparent in recent memory.” Earnest has his own take.
So here’s a suggestion. Fox News has revenues approaching $2 billion and a newsgathering investment of nearly $900 million per year — why not plow some of those funds into an investigation into the transparency of the passage of the Affordable Care Act? If what Gruber says is on target, after all, then there must be a heck of a lot more scandal to uncover. Don’t rely on one source for this story, Fox News.