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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

The verdict is in on the Supreme Court

The statue “Contemplation of Justice” illuminated in red light on the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington, May 20, 2024. (Will Matsuda/The New York Times)

By Maureen Dowd

After Donald Trump was found guilty of 34 felony counts in a Manhattan court, conservatives — from Marjorie Taylor Greene to George Santos to the Heritage Foundation — began posting upside-down American flags on the social platform X in solidarity with the “political prisoner,” as Trump absurdly styles himself.

It was the same upside-down symbol that insurrectionists carried to the Capitol on Jan. 6 to proclaim that they thought the election was stolen and that was seen flying over Justice Samuel Alito’s house in suburban Virginia even as the Supreme Court was considering whether to hear a case about the 2020 presidential election.

Now that it’s being used to show support for a felonious ex-president, Alito will have an even harder time trying to pretend he’s oblivious about its meaning.

I don’t need a black robe to hand down a judgment on the Supreme Court.

It’s corrupt, rotten and hurting America.

The once august court, which the public held in highest esteem, is now hopelessly corroded: It is in the hands of a cabal of religious and far-right zealots, including a couple of ethical scofflaws with MAGA wives.

Chief Justice John Roberts, who dreamed of being remembered as a great unifier of the court, is refusing to rein in Alito and Justice Clarence Thomas, who are thumbing their noses at the public and their own oaths to dispense fair and impartial justice.

When Alito pushed a willing conservative majority into yanking away women’s right to control their own bodies, he was, in essence, blaming women: You get pregnant, you’ll have to live with it.

In this latest firestorm, he blamed one woman in particular: his wife, Martha-Ann.

Somehow, in Alito’s world, women are to blame.

It was shocking when The New York Times’ Jodi Kantor reported that the upside-down flag cherished by “Stop the Steal” marchers was hanging outside Alito’s house. It was even more shocking when we learned that another flag carried by “Stop the Steal” rioters on Jan. 6, the “Appeal to Heaven” flag, was flying outside the Alitos’ vacation home in New Jersey as cases concerning the Jan. 6 assault and riot were pending at the court. This flag symbolizes support for Donald Trump and a desire to infuse the federal government with a lot more Christianity.

“In coming weeks, the justices will rule on two climactic cases involving the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, including whether Trump has immunity for his actions,” Kantor wrote. “Their decisions will shape how accountable he can be held for trying to overturn the last presidential election and his chances for reelection in the upcoming one.”

Alito’s conservative Christian, right-wing, deeply aggrieved views about the culture wars are reflected in his speeches, decisions and now flags that are red flags.

He is refusing to recuse himself from the two cases about the attempted coup on Jan. 6. (One concerns the question of whether Trump is immune from prosecution for his role egging on rioters; the other involves a federal obstruction law used to charge the rioters.)

When leading Democratic lawmakers demanded Alito’s recusal, he wrote back, trying to make Martha-Ann Alito the fall guy. Alito has clearly heard enough criminal appeals to know you’ve got to point the finger at somebody else when you’re guilty.

“My wife is fond of flying flags,” he wrote to the lawmakers. “I am not. She was solely responsible for having flagpoles put up at our residence and our vacation home and has flown a wide variety of flags over the years.”

He’s happy to take away the rights of millions of American women to control their bodies, but respects the right of his wife to control their incendiary flags. While he’s on the Supreme Court, he said, Martha-Ann wields the gavel at home.

“I was not even aware of the upside-down flag until it was called to my attention,” he wrote. “As soon as I saw it, I asked my wife to take it down, but for several days, she refused.” He said there was absolutely nothing he could do to get that pesky seditious flag taken down sooner.

He was oblivious about the symbolism of the “Appeal to Heaven” pine tree flag, he claimed.

Thomas is also awash in ethical snarls, some related to his wife. Ginni Thomas’ supporters also tried to defend her activism related to Jan. 6 by saying she is an independent spouse.

But it doesn’t wash. As Jane Mayer wrote in The New Yorker, Ginni Thomas is a lawyer and a prominent member of hard-right groups and “has declared that America is in existential danger because of the ‘deep state’ and the ‘fascist left,’ which includes ‘transsexual fascists.’”

In a Facebook post, she linked to a news item about the Jan. 6 protest and wrote “LOVE MAGA people!!!!”

Mayer noted that it is getting harder to dismiss Ginni Thomas’ actions as harmless, given that the “Supreme Court appears likely to secure victories for her allies in a number of highly polarizing cases — on abortion, affirmative action, and gun rights.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal asked Roberts to make Clarence Thomas recuse himself from the case on Trump and the insurrection, but Thomas refused.

The Supreme Court has two decisions on abortion cases due any day.

“The Fall of Roe,” an insightful new book by The New York Times reporters Elizabeth Dias and Lisa Lerer, laid out the events and the strategy — and the failure of the Democrats to recognize the threat — that led to the fall of Roe. There was a determined group of religious zealots with a long-term master plan to pack the court with religious zealots.

“These conservative Catholic and evangelical Christian operators believed they were fighting the biggest moral battle of the modern age, and forced America to debate on their terms,” they wrote. “But despite their public appeals, they did not convince broad swaths of Americans of the righteousness of their cause. Instead, they remained a minority, and leveraged the structures of American democracy in their favor, building a framework strong enough to withstand not only the political system but also a society moving rapidly against them. They took power to remake the nation in their image. And they were far more organized than their opponents or the public ever knew.”

Now it’s up to Democrats to turn the tables and see if they can use this issue in the November election to save the country and women’s rights.

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