President Obama's advisers acknowledged Tuesday that they were unprepared for the intraparty rift that occurred over the fate of a proposed public health insurance program, a firestorm that has left the White House searching for a way to reclaim the initiative on the president's top legislative priority.
Administration officials insisted that they have not shied away from their support for a public option to compete with private insurance companies, an idea they said Obama still prefers to see in a final bill.
But at a time when the president had hoped to be selling middle-class voters on how insurance reforms would benefit them, the White House instead finds itself mired in a Democratic Party feud over an issue it never intended to spotlight.
"I don't understand why the left of the left has decided that this is their Waterloo," said a senior White House adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "We've gotten to this point where health care on the left is determined by the breadth of the public option. I don't understand how that has become the measure of whether what we achieve is health-care reform."
"It's a mystifying thing," he added. "We're forgetting why we are in this."....