All You Need To Know About GruberGate

The architect of Obamacare said some stupid things. Republicans are outraged, at least until they can be outraged by a new gaffe.

Why is Jonathan Gruber smiling?

Photographer: Bill Greene/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Everyone is writing about GruberGate. Ugh. For those who don’t follow every tempest in a teapot that obsesses political yakkers, this is about old comments that surfaced in which Jonathan Gruber, who helped design the Affordable Care Act,  said things that ranged from being stupid (calling voters stupid) to simply impolitic.

Republicans in Congress are furiously plotting about how best to exploit it, but c'mon: It will have zero effect on Obamacare, on Barack Obama, or on anything or anyone else.

Most of the time, what “everybody” is talking about disappears into nothingness incredibly quickly. Even things with considerable substance (Central American kids streaming over the border and Ebola just in the last few months, not to mention the war in Afghanistan) fade fast from the headlines and everyone’s memory with no appreciable political effect.

As for gaffes, even in the context of elections, most of them don’t matter. Neither Obama’s “you didn’t build that” nor Mitt Romney’s 47 percent comment had any effect on the 2012 presidential election. As the Monkey Cage’s John Sides said, “Many a news cycle was built on a 'gaffe' with a remarkably short shelf life.”

Sarah Kliff, one of the most astute analysts of health-care substance and politics, suggests that “if nothing else, this controversy is re-energizing their war against” Obamacare. Even that is far too strong. Given the Republican landslide last week, the opposition was already energized.

What Gruber’s comments do is give Republicans new language to make the same points they were going to make anyway in the speeches they were going to give anyway in support of the repeal they were going to advocate for anyway. It will change nobody’s mind about a law that is now almost five years old.

The program will continue to be unpopular for the same reasons it has been unpopular. It will also continue to survive, barring Supreme Court intervention, for the same reasons it has survived for all this time. So, Republican or Democrat, you can ignore GruberGate -- as well as the next foolish comments someone makes.

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