House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) challenged Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber Tuesday by asking if Gruber is a "stupid" man who lucked his way into key jobs advising governments on health care and a professorship at MIT.
Issa said he thought to ask the question after the Kennedy Center honored Tom Hanks, who played Forrest Gump, the "ultimate in successful stupid man."
"Are you stupid?" Issa asked Gruber, quoting a line from "Forrest Gump," in which a young girl asked Gump, "Are you stupid or something?"
In the movie, Gump answered the question by saying, "Momma says stupid is as stupid does." Gruber answered by saying he doesn't think he's stupid.
"I don't think so, no," Gruber replied.
"Does MIT employ stupid people?" Issa asked.
"Not to my knowledge."
"OK, so you're a smart man who said some … really stupid things, and you said the same. Is that correct?"
"The comments I made were really inexcusable," Gruber said of his various remarks about the passage of Obamacare, including that the "stupidity of the American voter" was key to getting it through. He apologized for those remarks at the start of the hearing.
Despite the bold question, Issa's line of questioning was actually aimed at establishing that Gruber is not stupid, and that his controversial comments about Obamacare should be examined more closely. Issa said in one of the videos uncovered in the last few months, Gruber seemed to be saying that health care prices would only fall for lower-income people because of higher taxes collected by higher-income people.
But Gruber rejected that analysis, and said his modeling shows that pooling risks for the healthy and less healthy would lead to lower health care costs for everyone.
"I'm a taxpayer, Mr. Gruber," Issa said. "Trust me, people are not paying less, people like me are paying more for those because taxes are in fact a cost that's paid."
"Total cost did not go down. Cost shifting occurred in your model, isn't that true?" Issa asked.
"The amount individuals have to pay for health insurance on average fell in my model," Gruber said.
"But it didn't fall in reality," Issa concluded.
Democrats were also angry at Gruber for his remarks. Regardless of whether Gruber himself is stupid, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the committee, said his comments were "absolutely stupid" and "insulting," since it gave Republicans a weapon against Obamacare.
"Man, you did a great job, you wrapped it up with a bow," Cummings said.