Responsibility, not Blame
This feels like ancient history now, but just a few months ago the mood in the White House was not exactly upbeat. The New York Times website looked like this at one point in January:
The phrase that struck me when I saw this was “responsibility, though not necessarily blame.” In the article itself, the full sentence reads: “When Mr. Obama presents his first State of the Union address on Wednesday evening, aides said he would accept responsibility, though not necessarily blame, for failing to deliver swiftly on some of the changes he promised a year ago.” What is the distinction being drawn here? It seems that there is substantial overlap between accepting responsibility and accepting blame. Here is one hypothesis, rather crudely stated for now: the word “responsibility” can be used to describe a situation where one is merely one actor among many whose collective efforts produce a certain outcome; whereas the word “blame” tends to bring attention to that one actor whose actions or inactions so overwhelm the moral picture that they either deflect attention from others or even absolve them even if they, as a matter of fact, contributed to the bringing about of the negative outcome in question.