I ran a long post here about the way in which the MSM manipulates the meaning of Supreme Court cases so that credulous readers are left either believing that they have rights they don’t in fact have or believing that rights they never had have been capriciously removed. My post focused on abortion and employee rights. James Taranto, in an excellent Wall Street Journal opinion piece, makes the same point about the media’s reporting re Gitmo:
The AP’s impatience to write the final chapter of the Guantanamo story is of a piece with the way news organizations generally have told the story. Although the Supreme Court has granted some rights to detainees, it has been remarkably restrained in doing so. But journalists have falsely portrayed Guantanamo as an affront to the Constitution and international law.
Perhaps the most striking example was the New York Times’s coverage of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which the court decided a year ago this week. “The decision was such a sweeping and categorical defeat for the administration that it left human rights lawyers who have pressed this and other cases on behalf of Guantanamo detainees almost speechless with surprise and delight, using words like ‘fantastic,’ ‘amazing’ and ‘remarkable,’ ” correspondent Linda Greenhouse exulted. She opined that there was “no doubt” the ruling represented “a historic event, a defining moment,” and likened it to U.S. v. Nixon, the 1974 case in which the court unanimously ordered the president to turn over the Watergate tapes.
Nixon resigned 15 days after that decision. A year after Hamdan, it is safe to say that its impact has been rather less dramatic. While the court, by a vote of 5-3, did hand Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s personal driver and bodyguard, a victory on key points, Ms. Greenhouse’s purple prose belied the narrow grounds on which it did so. Less than four months after Hamdan, Congress passed the Military Commissions Act, which effectively undid the ruling. Congress had this power because the Supreme Court has not extended a single constitutional right to alien enemy combatants.
The reference to Linda Greenhouse in the above quoted material is especially significant. DQ and I have often asked why people get on the Supreme Court and become more liberal in their leanings. DQ believes (and I’m summarizing here so may not get it right) that we all want to do the right thing and make life better for people in tough situations. Once on the Supreme Court, justices forget Constitutionality and legal process, and are suddenly overcome with the power they have immediately to remedy one person’s situation, and to Hell with the spillover consequences. I think he’s right.
I also think Thomas Lifson (of American Thinker) is right. When I mentioned the same phenomenon to him — justices trending to activist positions — he said “it’s the Greenhouse effect.” As my mind immediately filled with a picture of the nine justices emitting warming gases, Thomas must have noted my bemused expression, because he added “Linda Greenhouse, the New York Times court reporter.”
As Thomas explained it, everyone wants to get positive strokes for what they do. Most of us get them from our peers. At the rarefied level of Supreme Court justices, the press is also looking over their shoulders, grading their conduct. And in that world, no member of the press is more prestigious than Ms. Greenhouse. Unless the justices have strong core convictions — and many of them are just workmanlike people — they start shading their opinions with an eye to praise from Greenhouse. A perfect example is that way in which, and as Taranto pointed out, Greenhouse completely misinterpreted Hamdan and then went wild with delight, heaping praise on the justices. Must have made some of those justices feel mighty good about themselves — not because of what they did, but because their prominent critic, Greenhouse, liked what they did.