‘HE WILL DO ALMOST ANYTHING’…. The NYT fronts word this morning that the White House intends to “simplify and scale back” the health care reform agenda. That could mean a few different things, but it isn’t necessarily panic-time for reform advocates. The goal, apparently, is to “drop contentious but nonessential elements.”

For example, administration officials said President Obama has “not given up” on a public option, and believes there’s general consensus on consumer protections and subsidies to the uninsured — the two central pillars of reform. The article also noted that the president “remains committed” to both.

That said, a White House official, commenting on the president’s perspective, told the Times,”It’s so important to get a deal. He will do almost anything it takes to get one.”

That’s not exactly a smart thing to say to the press — negotiating from a position of desperation does not put Obama in a strong position — but it does reflect a certain political reality.

So, what are these “contentious but nonessential elements” that are likely to get the ax?

To avoid some of the most heated criticism voiced in recent weeks, White House officials said they would have no objection if Congress scrapped proposals to have Medicare pay for counseling on end-of-life care. […]

White House officials said Congress could also drop proposals requiring the government to create school-based health clinics and collect nationwide data on health and health care by race, sex, sexual orientation and “gender identity.”

Supporters of the House bill said such data would help reduce “health disparities,” but critics said they feared the government could assemble a database that posed a threat to personal privacy.

These are measures that could, in theory, be addressed later in separate bills. But it’s still not clear who these concessions are intended to please.

Scuttling these provisions would address right-wing paranoia, but let’s be clear: not one Republican lawmaker who opposes reform will waver in light of these changes. For that matter, even if these measures are dropped, the unhinged crazies will still fight against reform, and will probably convince themselves that the provisions weren’t really removed at all.

In other words, it still seems as if Dems are negotiating with themselves — probably because they are.

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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.