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The Public Option Ain’t Dead

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Over the weekend, Obama merely mentioned the thought of the possibility that maybe he would consider removing the so-called public option from the health care reform bill.

And almost instantly left-wing lawmakers and advocates went apoplectic.

Now the White House is backtracking furiously. The White House says it hasn’t changed positions. I think that’s true.

This story is more media creation than policy change. Obama has said all along that he wants a public option, but it’s not a must-have and that he would be willing to negotiate on it. Obama said as much in his comments at a townhall meeting over the weekend.

So calm down, folks. He didn’t back away from the public option.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius did get a little off-message when she told CNN the administration would be willing to negotiate on the public option and would consider some hazily defined nonprofit, co-op idea.  She’s made similar comments before.

But let’s get one thing straight: The public option isn’t going anywhere for the moment. Obama still supports it, and most Democrats in Congress want it.

I would bet that when Congress returns from its recess that the House will pass a health care bill that includes a public option. What happens after that is anyone’s guess.

It’s not clear if Sebelius was floating a trial balloon to gage people’s reactions to removing the public option or if she was just speaking off-message. But administration officials got a hint of the outrage that would tumble down on them from the left if they ever do axe the public option.

Liberals don’t seem to trust Obama on this issue (and given his past statements, maybe they shouldn’t) and they’re morbidly waiting — indignation at the ready — for the worst to happen.

Which is all well and good. But they should save the mouth-frothing anger until the worst actually does happen (if it happens). And nothing that Obama said over the weekend makes it any more likely to happen.

Dave Mann has been with the Observer since 2003. Before that, he worked as a reporter in Fort Worth and Washington, D.C. He was born and raised in Philadelphia. He thinks border collies are the world’s greatest dogs, and believes in the nourishing powers of pickup basketball.