Cillizza tries to understand Republicans’ obsession with Gruber:
Nothing makes conservatives more angry than the belief, which they think is widespread among liberals, that they are stupid. That if only conservatives read as much as the left or had the intellectual capacity of the left, they would see things the way the left sees them.
Jonathan Cohn insists that the wool wasn’t pulled over Americans’ eyes:
Did the Obama Administration engage in some creative salesmanship of its own?
Of course it did. And in one very regrettable instance, it misled the public about how the plan would work out. Obama repeatedly told people, without qualification, that they could keep their insurance if they liked it. In fact, many people who bought insurance their own and held plans that didn’t live up to the new law’s standards would have to give them up.
Most ended up learning this in the worst possible way: When a cancellation notice from an insurance company arrived in the mail last fall, and without a working Obamacare website to check out their new options. These people constituted a small number of people, relative to the whole population, and it’s still not clear how many lost plans because insurers seized the moment to drop less profitable products in the market. Had Obama merely said “most people” could keep their plans, or “if you have a good plan already, you can keep it,” he would have been fine. He didn’t.
But accusations that Obama and his allies systematically misrepresented the law in other important ways—or hid its key features from the public—don’t gibe with the historical record. The official debate over its provisions lasted approximately a year, the unofficial debate stretched back even farther than that, and during that time analysts pored over details and partisans on both sides argued over virtually every aspect.
Ezra adds that Gruber “was really, really frustrated by Washington’s games”:
He was really annoyed at politicians framing things and writing legislative language to support their press releases rather than the final law. As involved as he’s been in the policymaking process, Gruber is, first and foremost, an MIT economist. And he’s got little patience for Washington’s tendency to take clean, straightforward policies and complicate them in the name of politics. ….
But Gruber did something stupid here: he tried to look knowing and clever to his audience by dismissing the intelligence of voters. His actual point there is ridiculous. The idea that most voters were paying close attention to subtle framing decisions around risk pooling or excise taxes or even mandates is absurd. Voters aren’t dumb. They just don’t follow politics closely. When Washington tries to trick people, it’s almost always trying to trick itself.
On the other side of the debate, Peter Suderman uses the administration’s spin against it:
Responding over the weekend to questions about Gruber’s statements, President Obama pushed back on Gruber’s role, labeling him “some adviser who was never on our staff.” Gruber’s remarks, Obama said, were “not a reflection on the actual process that was run” when crafting and passing Obamacare.
These reactions from Obama and others were, for the most part, technically true—but nonetheless misleading about Gruber’s influence on the law. At a minimum, they were not fully transparent about his role. In attempting to downplay Gruber’s remarks, Obamacare’s supporters had instead proved him right.