Larry Elder

The main scream media strikes again!

"High Court Rejects Bush's Claim That He Alone Sets Detainee Rules," read the headline in one of the nation's most important and influential newspapers. The sub-headline called the Supreme Court's 5-3 decision a "sweeping rebuke" of the administration's policy. Another major newspaper headline read: "Justices, 5-3, Broadly Reject Bush Plan to Try Detainees."

These headlines refer to the recent Supreme Court decision that ruled 5-3 against the administration's use of military tribunals. The court did not compel the release of the prisoners, or even the shutdown of Guantanamo Bay. The Supreme Court said that Bush could achieve his objectives by simply seeking authority from Congress. Given congresspersons' fear of accusation of being "soft on al Qaeda," expect Congress to grant the president much, if not all, of the authority he seeks in processing terrorist enemies picked up on the battlefield.

So, let's examine the main scream media's coverage of the decision.

Take the first newspaper -- "High Court Rejects Bush's Claim That He Alone Sets Detainee Rules." Not only did the sub-headline call the decision a "sweeping rebuke," the body of the article said, "The ruling is the most sweeping legal defeat for the administration . . . " Sweeping rebuke? Sweeping legal defeat?

First, understand that this 5-3 decision is actually a 5-4 one. One justice, Chief Justice John Roberts, recused himself because, as an appellate judge, Roberts previously ruled on the case on the administration's side. And two justices, John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, are 86 and 73 years old, respectively. If Bush appoints one, and possibly two, "conservative" justices, cases like this could end up 5-4 in Bush's favor. So this was quite a close call.

The reason to point out that this military tribunal case was actually a 5-4 decision is because other 5-4 decisions get reported in a very different way. For example, when the court upheld the University of Michigan law school's use of race in admissions in a 5-4 decision, the first newspaper called the ruling "deeply divided." The article said of the losing plaintiffs, "they fell short by one vote in the Supreme Court."

The same paper wrote about a criminal procedure decision that ended in a 5-4 vote. The article talked about a "narrow Supreme Court majority." And the now infamous eminent domain Kelo case also came down to a 5-4 ruling. How did the same newspaper cover this? It mentioned the dissent in the first paragraph.

Now for the second paper, "Justices, 5-3, Broadly Reject Bush Plan to Try Detainees."

Larry Elder

Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit