AND THEN WHAT?…. On ABC’s “This Week,” it appears the question of the day is WWKD — what would Kennedy do?

Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told ABC’s This Week that the late-Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) — who long supported the public option — would compromise on health care before altogether abandoning the possibility for reform this year.

“Teddy would put the facts on the table, and the reality of life for many Americans on the table,” Kerry told host George Stephanopoulos. “What Teddy would do is fight for the public option. He believed that the public option, like I do, would be the best option available … But if he didn’t see the ability to get it done … he would not throw the baby out with the bathwater, he would not say no to anything.”

“In every case he fought as hard as he could,” Hatch added. “But when he recognized that he couldn’t get everything he wanted, but could get a good bill, he [would compromise].”

I have no idea if this is true. I do know that “public, government-run health care was key to not one, but both of Kennedy’s final health care initiatives.” He helped shape the HELP Committee bill, which included a public option as its centerpiece. Kennedy also championed a Medicare for All bill, which never gained traction.

Given this, whether Kennedy would have been willing to scuttle a public option — despite majority support among Americans, majority support in the House, and majority support in the Senate — is open to some debate.

But I still think this is the wrong question, and it ignores the larger dynamic entirely.

I can imagine a set of circumstances in which Senate Republicans said, “Look, reform is important, but the public option is a bridge too far. If Dems were willing to drop that provision, we could have a broad, bipartisan consensus on a health care bill.” But, newsflash, this isn’t what’s happening. Indeed, when the White House signaled a willingness to scuttle the public option, congressional Republicans insisted they’d still oppose health care reform.

Kerry and Hatch think Kennedy would have dropped the public plan to strike a deal. Maybe, maybe not. But the question badly misses the point — what deal? Which Republicans are ready to support an ambitious reform package if Democrats agree to drop the public option?

The GOP expects Dems to get rid of one of the key provisions in the entire reform campaign. In exchange for what? Why is there even a discussion underway in which Dems negotiate with no one, giving up long-sought policies and get literally nothing in return?

We’re hearing an awful lot about the “quid,” with no talk about the “quo.”

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.