Affixing Blame

More news and photos from the Abu Ghraib prison have left many bloggers, like everyone else, asking who will be ultimately held responsible — now, and in November.

Josh Marshall, who said he was at a loss for words — at least “metaphorically” — writes that “history is littered with far greater outrages. But how exactly did we find ourselves on the doling out end of this stuff?”

The responsibility “goes right to the very top — to the president, the secretary of defense, the vice president and many others,” according to Marshall, who also links to blogger Andrew Sullivan’s posting on the subject. Writes Sullivan: “By refusing to hold anyone accountable, the president has also shown he is not really in control.”

Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly describes growing worries even among those who support the war about whether George Bush has a clue how to win it. Quoting a story from yesterday’s Los Angeles Times, which notes that allies hope to postpone a major commitment in Iraq until after November, Drum asks: “Gee, I wonder what they think might change after the elections in November?”

The exception in the drumbeat (no pun intended), not surprisingly, are bloggers at National Review. David Frum argues that Bush must retain embattled Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who is not responsible for the torture and mistreatment of Iraqis in the prison. Frum’s colleague Clinton W. Taylor provides his own take, saying “retaliating against Donald Rumsfeld will serve little purpose except to distract us from the relentless pursuit of the war on terror.”

On another subject, we now know how blogger Amy Sullivan spends her Saturday nights: poring over the online edition of The New York Times. Eagle-eyed Sullivan (at 1:34 a.m., no less) caught a change in a Times headline about Bush’s recent campaign swing through the heartland. The first posting, according to Sullivan, contained this headline: “Wowing the Heartland, Bush Finds Warmth Missing in the Beltway.” An hour later, it became “A Giddy Heartland Gives Bush Warmth Missing in the Beltway.” The difference, notes Sullivan, is “a little objective journalism.”

We’re heartened to see Sullivan on duty at 1:34 a.m. — we sure weren’t — but we’re not so sure she caught this fish. The two headlines seem interchangeable to us. But maybe it’s just the cold light of day.

Susan Q. Stranahan

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Susan Q. Stranahan wrote for CJR.