Obama Needed A Cigarette Break While Jonathan Gruber Taught Him About Health Care

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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Then-Senator Barack Obama took a cigarette break during his first “educational” meeting with Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber on health care reform.

The Daily Caller extensively reported on Obama’s 2009 Oval Office meeting with Gruber to design the Obamacare bill. Obama famously called Gruber, who called the American people “stupid,” just “some adviser who was never on our staff.” But their relationship pre-dated that meeting by several years. (RELATED: Obama, Gruber Worked Together To Deceive)

As Gruber faces a call-back from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in the new year, and continues to withhold documents about his work for Obama, records show that Gruber served as Obama’s early health care mentor in a 2006 meeting in Obama’s Senate office. Gruber, who was linked to the Ted Kennedy-led health reform push in Massachusetts, got Obama up to speed before the Illinois senator ran for president.

“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,” Gruber said in an extensive PBS Frontline interview in 2012. “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.”

“This was in his Senate offices,” Gruber confirmed.

“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.’…Obama, it was purely a sort of educational meeting. He was not the expert on health care that, say, Hillary Clinton was. He was there to learn.”

“And I just felt a more relaxed around — Obama was a little more relaxed,” Gruber said. “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.”

“And yeah, he was a super-quick study. He really understood it. Very good in terms of — if I was saying something he already knew, he could cut me off without seeming rude, you know, kind of like, ‘Yeah, I know that,’ but not in the kind of ‘Shut up,’ very kind of like: ‘OK, I know that. Now what about this?’ I mean, very much kind of debating, interested but absorbing and not trying to act like he knew more than he knew, and just really interested in learning.”

Gruber also discussed Obama’s major policy flip-flop: campaigning against an individual mandate, and then changing his mind after getting elected. Gruber credited himself as the adviser that got Obama to change course.

“Whereas Obama, who was opposed to the mandate in the election — I mean, Hillary [Clinton] adopted it. And in the election — in the campaign, to be fair, I was a Hillary supporter, not an Obama supporter, because I liked Hillary’s plan better because I believed in the mandate. Hillary had the mandate in her plan; Obama did not. He was explicitly opposed to it. He actually criticized her for it.”

“Then he gets elected. And to his credit he gets a lot of people, including myself, telling him, ‘Look, you cannot make this work without the mandate.” And he says, ‘OK, let’s do the mandate.’ And his advisers say, ‘This might not be the right thing to do.’ And he says: ‘You know, this is what the experts are telling me needs to be done. Let’s make this happen.’ And so Ted Kennedy, who had been opposed to it, he came into that side. Obama came to that side because they saw it working. And ultimately that is what pragmatism is. You see what works, and you do it. …”

Senator Obama said in a 2006 speech captured on video that he had begun stealing ideas “liberally” from Gruber.


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