Sam Alito bets his flag flap gets flushed down the memory hole

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MAGA troll Sam Alito, having signaled his solidarity with Donald Trump’s insurrectionists by flying (or allowing to have flown) an upside-down American flag at his home, is disgracing the U.S. Supreme Court with his mere presence.

That sentence barely scratches the surface. I need to elaborate. As the southern writer Flannery O’Connor said long ago, “You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate.”

The story is that Alito, having openly trumpeted his bias in flagrant violation of every judicial code of ethics, deserves to be impeached. But since that certainly won’t happen – there aren’t enough votes in the Senate, and the chamber’s Democrats are predictably too chicken to highlight the issue – at minimum Alito should recuse himself from the long-awaited “immunity” ruling that could whitewash Trump’s criminal liability in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

That won’t happen, either.

The current high court is a sinkhole of mendacity, and its own ethics code has more holes than a slab of Swiss cheese. For instance: “a justice should disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the Justice’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned, that is, where an unbiased and reasonable person who is aware of all relevant circumstances would doubt that the Justice could fairly discharge his or her duties.”

Alito can skirt that provision with ease. He can simply decide that none of his critics are “unbiased and reasonable.”

Even though a federal recusal law says that “Any justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned,” Alito can simply decide for himself that his impartiality is being unreasonably questioned.

So Alito is betting the story of his family’s stop-the-steal flag (and a second controversial flag flown at his Jersey Shore vacation home) will simply slide down the Orwellian memory hole, just like so many of MAGA’s fascist-adjacent perfidies. That wouldn’t happen if Senate Democrats raised hell and demanded Alito appear at a hearing to explain himself, but, as we know, Dems don’t do courage (“I don’t think there’s much to be gained with a hearing at this point,” said Judiciary Committee chairman Dick Durbin).

The result: Alito has free rein to make a mockery of the oath he took to “faithfully and impartially discharge” his duties under the Constitution. And we become further benumbed as this once-vibrant democracy sleepwalks toward dystopia.

In just the latest example,  a video on Trump’s social media account said if he’s elected, we will have the “creation of a unified Reich.” That video prompted this reaction from ex-Trump deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews, who said, “Trump’s continued use of Nazi rhetoric is un-American and despicable. Yet too many Americans are brushing off the glaring red flags about what could happen if he returns to the White House. When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

But we were talking here about Alito.

He went full MAGA last month during the oral argument about Trump’s fake “immunity” case – he worried that a criminal prosecution of Trump might “lead us into a cycle that destabilizes the functioning of our country as a democracy” – and now he’s poised to vote on the ultimate ruling.

There is one foreseeable ray of hope.

It’s possible that he and Clarence Thomas (the other most detestably compromised justice) will be outflanked. A narrow court majority could rule that Trump’s Jan. 6 insurrectionist conduct does not shield him from criminal prosecution and that the trial currently in limbo can indeed proceed.

Such a ruling wouldn’t remove the stain of Alito’s treasonous flag-waving, but it would arguably salvage the court’s credibility – at least until the next scandal besmirches it.

Copyright 2024 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at Email him at [email protected]

Cited by the Columbia Journalism Review website as one of the nation's top political scribes, and by ABC News' online political tip sheet as "one of the finest political journalists of his generation, " Dick Polman is the national political columnist at Philadlephia NPR affiliate WHYY, and has covered or chronicled every presidential campaign since 1988.

A Philadelphia resident, Dick roamed the country for most of his 22 years at The Philadelphia Inquirer. He has been blogging daily since 2006. He's currently on the full-time faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, as "Writer in Residence." He has been a frequent guest on C-SPAN, CNN, MSNBC, the BBC, and various NPR shows - most notably Philadelphia's "Radio Times" on WHYY-FM.