The institution of blind or “background” quotes certainly can be, and often is, abused, especially as a means of making personal attacks without being accountable for them.
But I can’t figure out what Atrios and Steve Benen think is wrong with this Roger Simon story about a Republican Senator worried about the increasing irrelevance to voters’ concerns of the Republican message. It’s not earth-shattering news, but it’s mildly interesting analysis, and the nature of the source gives it some authority. Of course no one in his right mind would say such things for attribution unless he wanted to make himself into a Zell Miller or a Joe Lieberman.
Benen and Atrios can huff all they want about “courage,” but they don’t have to run for re-election or deal with the rest of the Republican Caucus. I’d rather have someone saying this stuff on background than not saying it at all or saying it off the record. Would it really have been better for Simon to suppress the story rather than accepting it on background? I can’t see why.