Don’t look surprised. The left has been remarkably candid about this over the past year or two. Again and again and again and again and again and again and again they’ve warned people that the dream is bigger than universal coverage or even the public option.

Memo from The One to progressives: Keep the dream alive.

Obama argued to the group of progressive members that his health care reform bill should be looked at as the foundation of reform, that can be built on in the future. He asked them to help gather votes for the final health care battle and promised that as soon as the bill was signed into law, he’d continue to push to make it stronger. But in a matter of weeks, he stressed, he could sign into law legislation that would lead to 31 million new people being insured, including the woman who wrote him…

“He just said that the public option, something that he has supported along the way, is not something that we can pass. And he emphasized the fact that the decision now is between doing as much as we can do and doing nothing. That’s it. He thought the whole foundation thing — that this is definitely something we could be proud of, something we could build off [of],” said Schakowsky.

Woolsey told Obama that she’d be introducing legislation to create a public option and Obama said he encouraged the effort, according to Schakowsky.

Here’s an especially fun passage. Remember, Obama was self-described proponent of single-payer as recently as 2003 before deciding that it’s simply too impractical to pass. For now.

None of the members, including Kucinich, indicated that they would vote any differently this time around. “I think [Kucinich] left the meeting leaving the impression with the president that he’s a no-go,” said Schakowsky.

But, said one attendee, Obama pointed Kucinich toward single-payer language that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was able to get into the bill. Kucinich fought for an amendment that would allow states to adopt single-payer systems without getting sued by insurance companies. Obama told Kucinich that Sanders’s measure was similar but doesn’t kick in for several years. “He definitely wrote it down,” said one member of Kucinich, suggesting that he’d look into it.

I can’t decide between thinking that he’s saying this earnestly — if so, given the fallout in November, he’s going to be waiting awhile for ye olde public option — or just telling these idiots what they need to hear to vote for the much-despised Reid bill. This would, in theory, give him some cover even if he goes ahead and stabs them in the back by dropping reconciliation. After all, if this is just the first small step towards socialized medicine, who cares how small that step is? Pass anything. Just get a foot in the door so that you can swing it open in a decade or two when the wheel turns towards progressivism again.

Exit question: Think anyone in the White House press corps will lean on Gibbs tomorrow to explain what, specifically, this bill is a “foundation” for?