So, why is Cheney's 90-minute tirade against the president the lead Politico story today?OK, I have an answer for that.
First of all, it is the press's obligation to give a platform to both parties.
Second, each party should have the opportunity to determine its own positions on issues of public policy, and which people should give voice to those positions.
For the in-party, that's easy: clearly the main people the press should give platforms to include the president and his designated spokespeople, the Speaker of the House, the Majority Leader of the Senate, and relevant committee chairs.
For the out-party, it's more complicated. Cheney (and Bush, who isn't talking) have some credentials to speak for the Republicans; so do McCain and Palin; so do Boehner and McConnell; so do the leading presidential candidates for the next cycle, and the relevant committee ranking members. I suppose I should add that mad bloggin' Michael Steele (update: nothing for the last eight days). American parties aren't set up the way that many world parties are organized, with a clear leader of the opposition and shadow ministers who are the recognized leaders on various topics. Instead, it's a mishmash.
So, how can we tell if journalists get it wrong? That's fairly easy: it's the job of the out-party to keep them honest. If Politico tried to pass off someone from Obama's collection of retired GOP officials who support health care reform as the Official Voice of the Republicans, we would know they got it wrong from the howls of protest from current Republicans, including rapid policy contradictions.
Where does that leave Cheney -- and McCain, who Benen also complains about, or even talk-show faves Giuliani and Gingrich, who get tons of air time despite minimal and aging credentials? Apparently, reporters are doing little wrong by using them for the Republican party line. After all, the complaints, as far as I can tell, exclusively coming from opponents of the Bush/Cheney administration. Those complaints are wrong: opponents of the Republicans don't get a vote on which Republicans should get quoted. Moreover, Republicans do seem to follow Cheney's lead, whether it's on his complaints about torture, the KSM trial, or "dithering."
However, it's possible that things are changing. Greg Sargent reports that Republicans are now complaining off the record about Cheney. That's interesting, as it hints at the possibility that there may be considerable inner conflict among Republicans about their current public leadership. But it also makes it clear that, for now at least, Cheney is winning that battle. Republicans could isolate him overnight by dismissing him, publicly (including refusing to quote his lines and subscribe to his positions and arguments), and by making it clear to reporters privately that he doesn't speak for them, but that's not what's happened so far.
Quick summary: Republicans are entitled to be heard, and Republicans, not their opponents, get to decide who represents them.
If they want someone who sounds like a "random right-wing radio loudmouth in a third-tier market," well, that's their choice.