I follow a handful of writers on the Left to keep tabs on their latest pathologies (and, on rare occasions, to get out in front of stories when they actually have a point), and I must say that few of them provide such a persistent source of entertainment as Greg Sargent, formerly a paid left-wing activist employed by the Soros-funded Talking Points Memo family of sites, and now a paid left-wing activist employed by the Washington Post. While the WaPo has always been admirably even-handed in its selection of op-ed writers - unlike the New York Times, it not only gives a decent amount of airtime to conservative voices but uses talented intellectual combatants like Charles Krauthammer, not Washington Generals "conservatives" like David Brooks. The WaPo's news coverage, however, has remained stocked with the same sorts of establishment liberals who staff all the big-city newsrooms. But hiring Sargent as a full-time blogger was something different: there's no hiding the fact that he's a professional activist, and many of his blog posts are uncritical reprints of Democratic press releases without even the usual effort to cloak them in the garb of a news story. It is sadly telling that the WaPo felt no need to hire a professional activist on the Right, but then most of the online Right consists of part-timers with day jobs, anyway.
One of the more ironic of Sargent's hobbyhorses, therefore, is his participation in the Left's campaign to rid the airwaves of any remaining conservative voices or coverage of their arguments. In today's installment, he makes the self-evidently ridiculous argument that the media shouldn't cover criticism of the Obama Administration by Dick Cheney, who if you recall not only just completed 8 years as the Vice President of the United States, but has also served as Secretary of Defense, White House Chief of Staff, and House Minority Whip during his decade in Congress:
Politico is only the latest outlet to grant Cheney a platform to defend his legacy and to launch political attacks on the current president. The amount of airtime that has been granted by the networks and other news outlets to Cheney and his daughter, Liz Cheney, has been nothing short of extraordinary. Why is it happening?
Is Cheney a lead spokesperson for the G.O.P. on foreign policy? He's a private citizen with no policymaking role whatsoever -- leading G.O.P. Senators more properly hold that role. What's more, Cheney's foreign policy views are far out of the mainstream. Is he a contender for the 2012 G.O.P. nomination? Nope. He has flatly ruled out a run, and the recent Washington Post poll found that he's not on the radar of the G.O.P. electorate at all for 2012.
Is he the lead spokesperson for the previous administration? Yes, Cheney was a key architect of many of Bush's best known and controversial national security policies. But so what? Some of the policies he's all over the airwaves defending have been canceled and simply don't exist anymore. Why are we even debating them, when some of the new administration's most important national security initiatives haven't even been announced yet, let alone been subjected to the test of time?
The only conceivable justification for granting Cheney so much airtime would be to allow him to defend himself in the event of a real accounting of Bush-Cheney's interrogation program. But that's unlikely to happen. In any case, why not wait until it does before booking Cheney for more interviews?
One might ask why Greg Sargent is more qualified to get his views in print than Vice President Cheney, but let us ask a few questions here about how things would have gone down when George W. Bush was president.
What if Bush was criticized by former Vice President Al Gore, then a private citizen who signalled fairly early that he wasn't running again in 2004? We know that Gore generated tons of headlines. We know he was given an Oscar, and Emmy and a Nobel Peace Prize as a reward for his criticisms.
What if Bush was criticized by former President Jimmy Carter, a figure rejected by the American electorate as firmly as anyone in memory? Carter, too, generated scores of column-inches and was also awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.
What if Bush was criticized not by a former elected official but by a left-wing filmmaker with no political standing whatsoever? Michael Moore certainly got tons of play for his bizarre rants against the Bush Administration, as indeed did numerous Hollywood figures who represent nobody but themselves.
I could go on, but as usual with these kinds of "arguments" from the Left, a little examination is more than enough to get the point: during the Bush years, nobody tried to enforce Sargent's rule that press coverage of criticisms of the Administration should be strictly limited to officeholders and potential presidential candidates. As an activist, Sargent wants to limit the universe of critics, partially to limit criticism and partially because current officeholders and future candidates always need to be more constrained in what arguments they make, more hemmed in by calculation and less free to take a stand that moves the center of public debate.
Nobody who writes for the purpose of giving an honest opinion rather than activism would defend Sargent's point with a straight face. He's just trying to help his side.