BRADLEY EYES ‘GRAND BIPARTISAN COMPROMISE’…. Former senator and presidential candidate Bill Bradley believes “a grand bipartisan compromise is still possible with health care.” Dems want universal health coverage; Republicans limits on lawsuits. As Bradley sees it, the “trade-off” is “obvious.” If policymakers “combine universal coverage with malpractice tort reform in health care,” both sides can come away with something they want.

When Bradley calls this “obvious,” he’s right. In fact, he’s not the first one to come up with this — last week the Washington Post‘s Steven Pearlstein presented his own compromise plan, which included “malpractice reform.”

Now, Jonathan Zasloff makes the case that Republicans wouldn’t accept this because, for all of their bluster, they’re not really serious about “malpractice tort reform” anyway. It’s a compelling point.

But there’s another angle I can’t quite get around: Republicans aren’t asking for malpractice tort reform in exchange for support of health care reform. Indeed, they’re not asking for anything.

If there were any Republicans, even one, saying, “If Dems were willing to drop the public option and add tort reform to the mix, the health bill would have plenty of support,” then Bradley’s argument would make a lot of sense. But that’s not what we’re dealing with.

There’s a point a whole lot of well-intentioned people seem to miss, so let’s repeat the magic six words once again: Republicans don’t support health care reform. They’re not looking for a deal, or concessions, or enticements. They’re looking to kill the bill and capitalize on its failure. Period.

Indeed, GOP leaders aren’t even pretending otherwise. Remember, when the White House signaled a willingness to scrap the public option, not one GOP lawmaker — literally, not one — responded by saying, “Well, if Obama is willing to drop the public option, we’re ready to find some common ground.” On the contrary, Republicans shot down the trial balloon by insisting no concessions would be enough — the GOP will oppose reform no matter what.

It’s so bad, Paul Krugman is longing for the days of Nixon.

[T]he Nixon era was a time in which leading figures in both parties were capable of speaking rationally about policy, and in which policy decisions weren’t as warped by corporate cash as they are now. America is a better country in many ways than it was 35 years ago, but our political system’s ability to deal with real problems has been degraded to such an extent that I sometimes wonder whether the country is still governable. […]

So what happened to the days when a Republican president could sound so nonideological, and offer such a reasonable proposal?

Part of the answer is that the right-wing fringe, which has always been around — as an article by the historian Rick Perlstein puts it, “crazy is a pre-existing condition” — has now, in effect, taken over one of our two major parties. Moderate Republicans, the sort of people with whom one might have been able to negotiate a health care deal, have either been driven out of the party or intimidated into silence.

To reiterate a point from last week, Obama, Pelosi, and Reid could hold a press conference today, offering a reform package with no public option, no tax increases on the middle class, no “death panels” or “death books,” no funding for abortion, no coverage of undocumented immigrants, no rationing, no additional debt, and some “malpractice reform” thrown in, and Republicans would immediately respond with, “It’s not good enough.”

Why? Because they don’t support health care reform.

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.