Is Obama's health care man Jonathan Gruber 'just another guy in the neighborhood'?

How does the White House think it can distance itself from Jonathan Gruber?  As if we needed any more confirmation, Obama’s chosen few view the American people as stupid.  Administration officials heaped this rationale for Gruber’s moment of truth on the rising dung pile: “Gruber did not work in the White House or play the same role [as he did in Massachusetts] in developing the Affordable Care Act.”

To paraphrase Bill Clinton’s grand jury testimony:

Sounds like it depends on what the meaning of the word 'work' is. If the – if he – if 'work' means ‘work’ and never has been, that is not – that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement.

When is work not work?  In fairness to Gruber,  the MIT economist extraordinaire has stated he prefers not working in D.C.; he’d much rather phone it in from his million-dollar home in Lexington, Massachusetts, where he can “cuddle” with his eight parrots.  “If I wanted to be in Washington, I’d have taken a job in Washington,” he said.  “I wanted to be around for my family.”

But occasionally Gruber does hit the road to peddle his expertise.  The record shows he’s been Obama’s hired economic gun since at least 2006.

From a 2012 PBS Frontline interview

FL: So were you ever in a room with Obama?

JG: So the first time was in, I don't know exactly. You know, if I knew at the time how important it would be, I would have written down the date. It is like late 2006 maybe. It was right before he announced he was running. So maybe it was earlier than that, maybe spring 2006, right before he -- when people sort of knew he was thinking about it but he hadn't announced yet. I went down, basically did a tutorial for him on what we had done in Massachusetts and how it would work and basically thinking about expanding it to the national stage.

FL: Where were you? Where was it?


JG: This was in his Senate offices.

FL: And what was he like then?

JG: He was very interested. It was really just an information session. He was really interested in learning. He clearly was not interested in little incremental things. He wanted to be bold. That was clear. He said, "Look, I want to do big changes."

...And I just felt a more relaxed around -- Obama was a little more relaxed. I think he took a cigarette break halfway through. That is back when he was smoking a lot. He would check his BlackBerry occasionally. He was just kind of casual, interested in learning, very humble. Obama is very humble.

…The next time I see him is summer 2009. The big issue there is that he really wants to make sure I'm moving forward on cost control. I think that at this point he sort of knew we had a good plan on coverage, but he was worried on cost control. So we had a meeting in the Oval Office with several experts, including myself, on what can we do to get credible savings on cost control that the Congressional Budget Office would recognize and score as savings in this law.

And that was a meeting -- it was very exciting, once again, because the economists in the room all said the number one thing you need to do is you need to take on the tax subsidy to employer-sponsored insurance.

Does this sound like Gruber was a bit player?

Gruber and then Senator Obama were also at the launch of the Hamilton Project on April 5, 2006. The Hamilton Project is a think tank within a think tank—the liberal Brookings Institution. Named after Alexander Hamilton, (whose dictum “The People is a Great Beast" seems especially appropriate after Gruber dissed the "stupid" American people,) the Project boasts multiple ties to the Obama government. Peter Orszag, Austan Goolsbee, Robert Rubin, Reverend Jim Wallis and Center for American Progress' Robert Gordon all participated at the opening conference. Orszag, who would later become Obama's Budget Director,  introduced the Senator as "a son of an economist."   Senator Obama gave an eight-minute speech to Wall Street big shots on restoring America’s promise of opportunity, prosperity and growth.(see video)

Gruber went on to participate in future Hamilton Project roundtables with such notables as Ezekial Emanuel, Robert Rubin and Jason Furman, who later served as Obama's chief economic adviser in his presidential campaign. According to the New York Times, Gruber got the official call to help the administration work on  the basic principles of Obamacare in 2008. The White House then " lent him to Capitol Hill to help Congressional staff members draft the specifics of the legislation."  Gruber  frequently spoke with reporters and wrote opinion pieces supporting the Affordable Care Act but did not mention his role in helping to devise it, he “regretted not being more upfront,” he said.  “But the thing is, I know more about this law than any other economist.”

Seems Gruber’s ego alone would be pretty unforgettable, not to mention his zealous, decade-long campaign to transform our health care system and his proximity to Obama’s select inner circle.