GRASSLEY GIVING UP ON WHITE HOUSE TALKS?…. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) hosted a conference call with Iowa reports today, and was kind enough to post a transcript of the discussion online. As Chris Harris noted, there was one especially important exchange.

“Senator, I was wondering if you see any light at the end of the tunnel in terms of any type of compromise on health care reform?” a reporter asked. “Do you anticipate there will be some way that you can work that measure out with the administration?” The conservative senator replied:

I don’t think it’s going to be possible to work it out with the administration because they’re all over the field — all over the ball park, I guess, as we say.

“And, you know, one weekend, the secretary of HHS is saying you don’t have to have a public option. The next day, the administration gets hit from the left, so the Obama says public option is still very, very important to them.

“And you know what public option is? It leads to single-payer, completely government-run health care system and no choice. And we want to preserve choice for our people — and so, from that standpoint.

“But, yes, I do believe it’s possible to reach an agreement. But I have to confess to you to be a little more cautious when I say that now, because I’ve been out here listening to my constituents.” [emphasis added]

Let’s put aside the fact that Grassley, after months of negotiations, still doesn’t really understand what the public option is all about. Instead, note that Grassley said he doesn’t think it’s “possible to work it out with the administration,” and then he also thinks it is “possible to reach an agreement.”

And his complaint is that the White House is “all over the field”?

Chris Harris added, “If the Senator controlling bipartisan negotiations cannot even agree with what he said a mere 15 seconds earlier, how can he be trusted to earnestly work toward a constructive long-term solution for our broken health care system?”

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.