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  1. Opinion

Ruth: In Congress, it takes one twit to know one

Published Dec. 12, 2014

It's probably worthwhile to think of these moments as Washington's version of The Jerry Springer Show, where some hapless oaf goes on national television to be exposed as a dolt.

In this case it was Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Jonathan Gruber, who earned a Ph.D in mea culpas during his appearance before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Larry and Curly didn't get slapped around by Moe with anywhere near the vigor directed at Gruber, a health care economist who served as a consultant to the Obama administration during the drafting of the Affordable Care Act.

Over the past several weeks, Gruber became the nuclear winter of the health care law after he was caught on film disparaging the American voter as stupid and gleefully crowing about how the law was intentionally written densely to obscure the reality that premium payments were indeed a form of tax revenue.

No doubt after Gruber's remarks went viral, President Barack Obama had to wonder if there wasn't a special place in Guantanamo reserved for pompous MIT eggheads who make insufferable braggarts like Donald Trump look downright milquetoasty.

We've seen this Kabuki dance of contrition countless times before. Public official says or does something dopey. Congressmen go into full high dudgeon of outraged frothing. Public official is compelled to appear in the dock of the Capitol to grovel in humiliation. And an indignant time is had by all.

Still, there was a parallel universe feeling as Gruber, a dead man sniveling, began his Beltway bootlicking tour. Consider that Gruber was compelled to testify under oath that he was indeed a shameless, arrogant, self-promoting, thoughtless huckster who had inflated his own sense of self-importance and belittled the American public as a bunch of morons in an inexcusable spasm of hubris.

And this all took place before a panel of politicians who themselves are shameless, arrogant, self-promoting hucksters with their own inflated sense of self-importance who also regard the American people as a bunch of morons. See: Issa, Darrell — chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Gruber being vilified as an elitist, snobby, blustering fool before a congressional committee is a bit like Blazing Saddles' Mongo taking offense at Dennis Rodman's table manners.

It was hardly a politic move for Gruber to refer to Americans as being denser than a sack of dipsticks. But members of Congress also have precious little regard for the citizenry with their lying campaign commercials that assume the electorate is a bunch of easily manipulated, gullible lemmings.

Several members of the committee's gathering of beagles were particularly irked Gruber had been paid $400,000 by the federal government for his consulting work on the Affordable Care Act. And they were more flummoxed when the economist was unable or unwilling to disclose how much he made consulting with various states in setting up their own health insurance exchanges.

No doubt it was a princely sum. After all, while Gruber may possess the social graces of John Belushi's Bluto Blutarsky and the ego of Prince, it would appear at least the professor, who also helped create Romneycare in Massachusetts, did have the academic credentials to lend his expertise to the development of the federal health care law.

The same day Gruber was being verbally waterboarded by Issa's committee, the blistering U.S. Senate report on the Central Intelligence Agency's torture methods imposed on terrorism suspects included the tidbit that the program's architects, psychologists Dr. James Mitchell and Dr. Bruce Jessen, did not have "… specialized knowledge of al Qaeda, a background in counterterrorism or any relevant cultural or linguistic experience."

So the two chaps who had no clue what they were doing were paid $80 million in taxpayer money by the CIA to create ways to torture people. Yet the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform was outraged because a university professor, albeit a narcissistic one, made a small killing for lending his acknowledged expertise to creating the Affordable Care Act.

Even if you believe the health care law represents the sign of the socialist beast, whatever Gruber may have earned as a consultant pales in comparison to doling out nearly $100 million to the Abbott & Costello of torture.

A contrite and chastened Gruber at least admitted publicly he is a boorish twit. If only Congress had the same intellectual honesty to follow his example.