CANTOR’S PREDICAMENT…. Just five days ago, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told a group of constituents that his caucus agrees with 80% of the Democrats’ health care reform plans. Four days later, however, he returned to the old, standard talking points.

[L]et’s reset the health care debate and start from scratch. I believe this would help Washington regain the public’s trust and would produce real and substantive health care reform. It would be foolhardy for the majority to continue to sidestep this important obligation.

Remember, Cantor is supposed to be one of the sharper minds in the Republican caucus.

That said, the befuddled Minority Whip is in a tough spot. At the same event in which he expressed four-fifths support for health care reform, Cantor was confronted by a constituent. She noted that she has a close relative in her early 40s. The friend had a lucrative career and great insurance, right up until she recently lost her job. A couple of weeks ago, she was diagnosed with stomach tumors and needs an operation soon, but she’s no longer covered.

Cantor encouraged her to look to “existing government programs,” adding, “No one in this country, given who we are, should be sitting without an option to be addressed.”

Except, whether Cantor realizes it or not, he and his caucus are opposed to “existing government programs,” and are fighting like crazy to make sure Americans don’t have quality, affordable options. It’s impossible to reconcile the GOP leader’s rhetoric and policy positions.

Kevin Drum explained Cantor’s insurmountable hurdle, and why the Minority Whip isn’t following through on his promises to produce a Republican reform alternative.

…Cantor’s problem is obvious: He can’t provide a full-scale Republican plan because it’s simply not possible to provide universal coverage without the government taking a big role in things. So he’s stuck…. [T]hat’s where we are these days: an awful lot of our most pressing problems simply can’t be solved unless you accept that the government has to be involved. So conservatives are stuck.

The idea of “starting from scratch” is absurd, but even if policymakers were to consider it, the circumstances wouldn’t change — policymakers would still realize that a government solution is needed to address a pressing national challenge, and Cantor & Co. — who’s ideological opposition to government action outweighs practical solutions and common sense — would still balk at the idea for philosophical reasons.

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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.