LANDRIEU ON HEALTH CARE AND ‘FREE LUNCHES’…. Among Senate Democrats, few have been as conservative on health care reform as Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. Yesterday, she elaborated a bit on her perspective in an interesting appearance on MSNBC.

“I believe in the private sector,” Landrieu said, in reference to giving Americans consumers a choice of a public option. “I don’t believe in government running every program for everybody,” she added, doing her best impression of a Republican.

Asked specifically about polling data showing the public option with strong national support, the conservative Democrat added, “I think that when people hear ‘public option,’ they hear ‘free health care.’ Everybody wants free health care. Everybody wants health care they don’t have to pay for. The problem is that we as government and business have to pick up the tab, and as individuals. So I’m not at all surprised that the public option has been sold as free health care. But there is no free lunch.”

This is pretty foolish. For one thing, Mary Landrieu, as a senator, takes advantage of a very generous health care plan that lawmakers give themselves. “Everybody wants health care they don’t have to pay for”? I suppose that’s true, but it’s odd to hear the comments coming from someone whose coverage is subsidized by taxpayers.

For another, I haven’t the foggiest idea why Landrieu thinks Americans perceive the public option as “free health care.” What is that based on? I’ll gladly concede that there may be some public confusion about the details surrounding the plan, but there’s no evidence at all to suggest the public option enjoys broad support because consumers think they’ll get something for nothing.

Of course, forgive me to re-emphasizing this all the time, but when push comes to shove, it doesn’t really matter whether Landrieu is too far to the right on health care policy or shilling for insurance companies. If she wants to vote against the health care reform bill, she should. What matters is whether Landrieu would partner with Senate Republicans to deny reform a vote on the Senate floor. And on that point, we don’t yet know what she might do.

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.