Ace thinks this is an elaborate kabuki by Obama and Reid to kill the Medicare provision while protecting Dingy Harry from nutroots reprisals by scapegoating Joementum. Is it?

The White House is encouraging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to cut a deal with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), which would mean eliminating the proposed Medicare expansion in the health reform bill, according to an official close to the negotiations.

But Reid is described as so frustrated with Lieberman that he is not ready to sacrifice a key element of the health care bill, and first wants to see the Congressional Budget Office cost analysis of the Medicare buy-in. The analysis is expected early this week.

“There is a weariness and a lot of frustration that one person is holding up the will of 59 others,” the official said. “There is still too much anger and confusion at one particular senator’s reversal.”…

Democrats are frustrated because they believe Lieberman keeps moving the goal posts. He supported the Medicare buy in the 2000 presidential campaign, and in September reiterated support for the plan in an interview with the Connecticut Post.

If it’s kabuki, why send the bill to CBO to be scored? Reid could simply hold onto it, wait for Lieberman to preemptively shoot it down, and then claim the “ol’ college try” political cover he needs to please the left. By sending it to CBO, he’s taking a risk: Given the crumbling polls and wavering by Blue Dogs like Nelson and Lincoln, if it comes back graded as a budget-buster, centrists may decide that there’s no way to get to 60 and the whole thing could collapse. Don’t forget either that they’re desperate to pass this by Christmas so that public anger will cool a bit over the holidays and The One will have a major accomplishment to stroke in his State of the Union speech. If it drags into January — as one Senate aide tells John Hawkins will certainly happen — those benefits are lost, which leaves Reid with little time now to mess around with kabuki. In fact, according to Politico, if they don’t hold a cloture vote by the end of this week, this thing ain’t happening in December. Besides, if it’s all kabuki, why rely on Lieberman to be a scapegoat “no” vote instead of recruiting your own? Mark Pryor comes from a red state and isn’t up for reelection until 2014; progressives aren’t going to go after him and give up a seat, especially that far into the future.

One other reason to believe this isn’t kabuki: The leader of the House’s progressive caucus told ABC today that he absolutely wants a conference committee with the Senate if/when it finally passes something, which makes the “ping-pong strategy” for passing a final bill unlikely. That also points to nothing getting done this month, but more importantly, it suggests that Reid’s Medicare idea is on the level. He has to give the liberals in the House something in the way of a public option if they’re going to ping-pong this, and right now, thanks to Lieberman, he’s giving them nothing.

Here’s a fun new clip from Naked Emperor News about the curious similarity between the Medicare buy-in and The One’s dream scenario of getting to single-payer piecemeal. Not sure how that squares with kabuki, either. Exit question: What does Lieberman get out of this? Even if he and Reid do strike a deal, even if he does end up switching parties, he’ll be the left’s number-one target in 2012 for having singlehandedly killed the public option. (They’re already going after his wife.) How does he plan to survive politically in deep-blue Connecticut after this?

Update: The One hits the panic button. Again, probably not kabuki.

President Barack Obama will meet with Senate Democrats at the White House Tuesday to press for action at a make-or-break moment for his health care overhaul.

All 60 members of the Democratic caucus have been invited, according to three Democratic officials.