Redemption and the Wafer Watch

George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, the newest installment of Sy Hersh’s New Yorker reporting on Abu Ghraib and November 2 continue to drive the blogs today. The president’s ringing endorsement of his Secretary of Defense has Joshua Micah Marshall asking “when President Bush says Don Rumsfeld is doing a ‘superb job’ you really have to shudder to think what we’d have in store for us if the guy came off his winning streak.”

“Clearly,” writes Marshall, “the president’s political advisors have told him that his political fate is tied to Rumsfeld’s. And on that judgment I think they’re right.”

Marshall also dissects the official language — “perhaps fetishization,” he speculates — about the yet-to-be-released, but much-anticipated photos, of torture in the Abu Ghraib prison, and the “bizarre locutions” of the administration about their content.

Billmon at Whiskey Bar offers this take on the Rumsfeld redemption:

On the one hand, the administration’s failure to purge Rumsfeld helps keep the torture story alive, which damages Bush in any number of ways — not least because it keeps the media spotlight firmly on his own disastrous blunders, instead of on John Kerry’s inept campaign. On the other, Rumsfeld’s survival perpetuates the completely dysfunctional chain of command that now appears to connect the White House directly to Centcom [Central Command] and [Paul] Bremer — with the Pentagon only intermittently plugged into the loop. This, in turn, increases the odds that the coalition will not only be driven from Iraq, but will be driven out on the geopolitical equivalent of a fence rail.

Echoing a point made by Campaign Desk a while back, Matthew Yglesias has a bit of advice for John Kerry as the Iraq tempest grows: Keep your mouth shut. (For his part, Kerry appears to have adopted that strategy well before it dawned on Yglesias.) “The reality is that he isn’t president, and even if he does become president that won’t happen until January 2005. Under the circumstances, there’s just no way (or at least it would be a remarkable coincidence) if some plan he unveiled this week was still a good idea once he had a chance to implement it.”

Bob Somerby of The Daily Howler turns his lasers on the media, asking “What does it look like when scribes use a ‘script?’ Given the way our press corps works, the point can’t be explained enough.” (The Campaign Desk choir is saying “Amen,” Bill.)

“Your Washington ‘press corps’ has a hard script,” writes Somerby. “Kerry is nuanced, evasive and rambling.” And in a detailed analysis of the Democrat’s comments, Somerby nails home his point — smartly.

And, saving our night-owl blogger Amy Sullivan for last — again — she’s picked up a recurrent theme in stories about Kerry’s church attendance. She’s not happy.

Citing an AP story headlined “Kerry Takes Communion on Mother’s Day,” Sullivan complains: “Missing once again was the accompanying story that begins, ‘Republicans George Pataki and Tom Ridge attended Mother’s Day Mass on Sunday and took communion although some Roman Catholic leaders say pro-choice politicians should not receive it because their stance violates church teachings.’”

Crediting Adele Banks of Religion News Service with coining the phrase, Sullivan says she’s tired of the media’s “Wafer Watch” on Kerry. Fair enough, Amy — but last time we checked, Pataki and Ridge weren’t running for the presidency.

Susan Q. Stranahan

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Susan Q. Stranahan wrote for CJR.