A lie is apolitical, or at least it should be. If there is one thing that unites clear-headed Americans, it's a belief that our leaders must be transparent and honest.
And yet, there seem to be two types of lies in our political discourse: Those that hurt "my party" and "my policies"; and those that don't. We condemn the former and forgive the latter—cheapening the bond of trust that enables a society to progress.
This truism came to mind when I read a Washington Post story headlined, "Who Is Jonathan Gruber?" It was an important and workmanlike report on the Obamacare adviser who bragged about the political advantages of deceiving voters, whom Gruber called stupid.
"Those comments have struck a nerve on the right," wrote Jose A. DelReal (emphasis added), "with some of the law's critics pointing to Gruber's comments as evidence that the administration intentionally deceived the American public on the costs of the programs."
My first reaction was, "No! No! Not just on the right!" I strongly support bipartisan efforts to expand the availability of health coverage to the working poor, and bending the cost curve that threatens federal budgets for years to come. While I think President Obama and congressional Democrats helped contribute to the 2009 standoff over what became the Affordable Care Act, I've openly rooted for Obamacare's success. I've denounced the knee-jerk opposition from the GOP, a party that once embraced key elements of Obamacare. My ideology is amorphous; I am not "on the right."
All of that, and yet: Gruber's remarks struck a nerve with me.
Appearing on an academic panel a year ago, this key Obamacare adviser argued that the law never would have passed if the administration had been honest about the fact that the so-called penalty for noncompliance with the mandate was actually a tax.
"And, basically, call it 'the stupidity of the American voter,' or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass," Gruber said.
He called you stupid. He admitted that the White House lied to you. Its officials lied to all of us—Republicans, Democrats, and independents; rich and poor; white and brown; men and women.
Liberals should be the angriest. Not only were they personally deceived, but the administration's dishonest approach to health care reform has helped make Obamacare unpopular while undermining the public's faith in an activist government. A double blow to progressives.
On top of that, Gruber has helped make the legal case for anti-Obamacare lawyers. In July, a year-old video surfaced in which Gruber said Washington legally withholds money from states that don't create their own health care exchanges. That could be construed by the Supreme Court to buttress the case against health insurance subsidies.
Back to The Post's story: Gruber's remarks are evidence that the administration intentionally deceived the American public on the costs of the programs. The author attributed that fact to "some of the law's critics." Not necessary; Gruber's remarks may not be dispositive, but they certainly are evidence.
Last year, The Post helped document how Obama and his advisers knowingly misled the public during his 2012 reelection campaign by repeatedly saying that, under Obamacare, people could keep their doctors and keep their health plans. To knowingly mislead is to lie.
"It's hard to know what might have happened if the truth had won the day," writes Post columnist Kathleen Parker. "But we do know that truth squandered is trust lost."
And so even I have to admit, as a supporter, that Obamacare was built and sold on a foundation of lies. No way around it, unless you're willing to accept a political system that colors its lies—the reds, the whites, and the blues.
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.