From Firedoglake

Dana Milbank, whose incredibly stressful job at the Washington Post allows him to go to White House press briefings, watched Thursday as Helen Thomas did something she has done pretty much every time she’s had the chance for the last half-century—she asked a straight question, and then pushed for a straight answer:

On Thursday afternoon, Thomas gave a clinic in fortitude to President Obama’s spokesman, Robert Gibbs, during the briefing. “Has the president given up on the public option?” she inquired from her front-row-middle seat.

The press secretary laughed at this repetition of a common Thomas inquiry, but this questioner, who has covered every president since Kennedy, wasn’t about to be silenced. “I ask it day after day because it has great meaning in this country, and you never answer it,” she said.

“Well, I — I — I apparently don’t answer it to your satisfaction,” Gibbs stammered.

“That’s right,” Thomas snarled.

“I — I’ll — I’ll give you the same answer that I gave you unsatisfactorily for many of those other days,” Gibbs offered. “It’s what the president believes in –“

“Is he going to fight for it or not?” Thomas snapped.

“We’re going to work to get choice and competition into health-care reform” was Gibbs’s vague response.

Thomas took that as a no. “You’re not going to get it,” she advised.

“Then why do you keep asking me?” Gibbs inquired.

“Because I want your conscience to bother you,” Thomas replied. The room erupted; Gibbs reddened.

Actually, conscience isn’t the problem for Gibbs and his boss; it’s spine.

Actually, Helen is right, and Dana is wrong.

I know, big surprise.

You see, this “spine” of which Dana writes implies that the Obama team has wanted to—and still wants to—push for a public option, but they are afraid to do it. It implies that the inclusion of a public option in a health reform bill is the goal of the administration’s strategy, but they flinched.

Alas, as we’ve discovered, the public option is part of a strategy, but that strategy is one that keeps the PO floating in a “believe in, but won’t insist on” limbo for the listening and dancing pleasure of the Democratic base, while the Rahm Squad plays sweet music for the moneyed interests. In the end, the White House fully expects to ditch the public option, say “Hey, we tried, but the votes weren’t there,” and then turn to PhRMA, the AMA, hospitals, health insurance companies, and the other benefactor-beneficiaries of the Baucus Caucus and say (sotto voce), “We kept our end of the deal, now you keep yours.” That is the administration’s strategy; they know it, but they won’t say it in an on-the-record press conference.

And that, of course, is shameful. That behavior, that plan, that level of faux-realpolitik cynicism is a betrayal of the heady promises made by candidate Obama, and, more importantly, of all the folks that worked so hard to get him elected. That is that sort of thing that should gnaw at you, that is the sort of thing that should eat your conscience alive.

Still wondering where that White House ‘full court press’ on the PUBLIC OPTION is.

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