Speaknado: New Republic 'Obamacare Truther' Confession

AHAHAHAHAHA!!!! AHAHAHAHAHA!!!! Pardon me for channeling my inner Max Cady laugh but I just couldn't help myself. The irony, the embarrassment, and the schadenfreude are just too much to bear without bursting out laughing.

It turns out that one of the biggest Obamacare supporters on the Web, Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic, has himself committed a "Speak-O." What makes it even funnier was that Cohn was the person Jonathan "Speak-O" Gruber turned to in order lamely attempt to explain away his premature bout with truthfulness about the fact that the Obamacare law intended for subsidies to go to state-based, not federal, exchanges.  That was last week and less than a week later, Cohn himself got caught committing a major "Speak-O" as revealed in his embarrassing confession: My Obamacare Truther Moment. Before we enter the laughter zone, let us first read Cohn mocking the "absurd" idea that anybody could have thought that the subsidies were meant for state-based exchanges only:

What do I think? As I’ve written before, I had literally hundreds of conversations with the people writing health care legislation in 2009 and 2010, including quite a few with Gruber. Like other journalists who were following the process closely, I never heard any of them suggest subsidies would not be available in states where officials decided not to operate their own marketplaces—a big deal that, surely, would have come up in conversation.

It’s certainly true that plenty of people who wrote and implemented the law preferred states to be in charge of their own marketplaces—in part, the thinking went, because state officials would have a better feel for the idiosyncrasies of their insurance markets. It's also true that, under the law, states that created their own marketplaces had access to some extra funds to carry out the task. But nobody made threats of withholding subsidies, which were much larger and essential for expanding coverage, as far as I know.

This is some very good reporting and sleuthing by Radia and Weinstein. I obviously can't speak to what Gruber was thinking at the time. But it doesn't change my view that the architects of Obamacare wanted everybody to have subsidies, no matter what decision their state officials made about the marketplaces.

So who could have dared to suggest that Obamacare subsidies could go only to exchanges set up by the states? How about Jonathan Cohn as was revealed in his confession this week:

Remember all that controversy last week—because somebody discovered some old statements, from MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, echoing the theory behind those new Obamacare lawsuits? Now somebody has found yet another old quote, making the same point, only this one didn’t come from Jon Gruber. It came from ... me.

It happened on January 12, 2010, during a broadcast of “Fresh Air" with Terry Gross on National Public Radio. At the time, House and Senate leaders were meeting with the White House, in order to forge a compromise bill based on the measures each chamber had already passed. This was before Scott Brown won the special election for Ted Kennedy's old Senate seat, depriving Democrats of their filibuster-proof majority and forcing them to pass the Senate bill with only modest, subsequent amendments. One major sticking point was the design of the new insurance exchanges. The House bill envisioned a national exchange. The Senate bill favored state exchanges.

Gross asked me about that issue—and what might happen if, under the Senate version, state officials decided not to do their own exchanges. "I'll be honest," I responded. "This is not something I've looked into that closely because I don't think it's going to end up in the bill." I should have stopped right there. Instead, I proceeded to speculate about a mechanism similar to the one that Michael Cannon, Jonathan Adler, and the law’s critics have suggested the Senate was trying to create. My description is a bit muddled and it went on for some time, but I made the point that "I can't possibly imagine a state opting out of an insurance exchange, given it's a good deal for the state."


And now Jonathan Cohn can expect his "Speak-O" remarks to enter the same evidence file as Gruber's remarks being compiled by the Halbig plaintiffs should the case go to the Supreme Court. And who will be the next prominent liberal whose "Obamacare Truther" statements will enter that Speaknado file?


New Republic ObamaCare Jonathan Cohn Jonathan Gruber
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