ENZI EXPLAINS HIS APPROACH TO NEGOTIATIONS…. Sen. Mike Enzi (R) of Wyoming, one of the Senate Finance Committee’s Gang of Six, hosted a town-hall meeting on Monday in which most of his constituents urged him to drop out of the negotiations.

One constituent said he was bothered by President Obama’s praise of Enzi, and said the far-right senator has a duty to terminate discussions on reform. Enzi responded by explaining his approach to the negotiations.

“If I hadn’t been involved in this process as long as I have and to the depth as I have, you would already have national health care,” he said.

“Someone has to be at the table asking questions,” Enzi said, showing a flash of passion.

He later quoted a favorite saying: “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”

“It’s not where I get them to compromise, it’s what I get them to leave out,” Enzi said.

This comes less than a week after Enzi told Roll Call that he’s prepared to vote against his own compromise bill, if that’s what the Republican Party wants.

Ryan Grim interpreted Enzi’s remarks by concluding that the senator “told a Wyoming town hall crowd that he had no plans to compromise with Democrats and was merely trying to extract concessions.” That seems like a reasonable reading of the remarks. Sure, Enzi may have been playing to the right-wing crowd a bit, but he nevertheless conceded publicly that his principle goal in the Gang of Six talks is to weaken the bill and force concessions from Democrats.

In order for negotiations to make any sense, participants have to be willing to engage in good faith. Is there anyone in their right mind who sitll thinks Enzi is committed to finding a bipartisan solution to health care reform?

As Krugman recently explained: “The central fact of the health care debate is that there is essentially no agreement on anything — values, philosophy, vision of how the world works — between the two sides. Progressives want universal coverage, and see an expanded government role as essential to getting there. Conservatives believe, in the face of all evidence, that free markets are the answer. And Enzi is very conservative. According to Vote View, my site for left-right rankings, Enzi was the 8th most conservative Senator in the last Congress — almost in the same league as Inhofe or DeMint. This is the quest for bipartisanship gone stark raving mad.”

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Steve Benen

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.