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A Flagging Campaign Against Justice Alito-Shared by JM

Insight by JM: EVIDENTLY, SCHUMER, DURBIN, WHITEHOUSE, SCHIFF, COHEN AND THEIR DEMOCRAT COLLEAGUES HAVE BEEN UNABLE TO CONVINCE THE AMERICAN PUBLIC THAT “BIDENOMICS” IS WORKING SO THEY HAVE RESORTED TO DISPARAGING SUPREME COURT JUSTICES TO DISTRACT THE PUBLIC FROM THE TRAIN WRECK THAT IS THE BIDEN PRESIDENCY.

The ‘ethics’ attack having failed, the left turns to flag etiquette.

By

Kimberley A. Strassel

An American flag is flown upside down outside the Supreme Court in Washington, June 26, 2022. 

 

The British know the risk of over-egging a pudding, but the partisan left has yet to learn the culinary art of politics. The growing absurdity of its campaign against the conservative majority on the Supreme Court is providing Americans all the excuse they now need to tune out this debate.

At least until recently, the attacks on Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito were loosely—if laughably—moored in common definitions of “ethics.” Sensible people might struggle to understand how a long-ago fishing trip, or a few days in the Adirondacks, would play any role in the long and consistent jurisprudence of the two justices, but at least the accusers were able to lob flashy terms like “disclosure” or “gifts” or “lavish vacation.”

Any pretense of seriousness evaporated last week with the New York Times’s exposé of the Alitos’ breach of flag etiquette.

Justice Alito’s wife, Martha-Ann, after enduring ugly verbal attacks from neighbors, broadcast her distress by briefly flying the American flag upside down in her yard in January 2021. While Justice Alito has stated that he had nothing to do with this flag hoisting, the incident, we are told, somehow amounts to evidence that the Alitos supported Donald Trump’s “stop the steal” campaign. Where does that connection come from? A search of the Factiva news database turns up no articles containing the phrases “stop the steal” and “upside down flag” before the Times report on May 16.

Rather than retreat in humiliation, the Times doubled down this week with a follow-up report of yet another flag—this one right-side up—spotted at the Alitos’ vacation home in New Jersey. The left tells us that the 1775 Pine Tree flag was spotted among Jan. 6 protesters! And moreover, that its catch phrase, “an appeal to heaven,” derives from a radical character—John Locke.

The Times somehow fails to let readers know that the flag is a longtime symbol of independence; that it was designed by George Washington’s secretary; was flown on ships commissioned by Washington; has been honored, commemorated and flown over state capitols; and is the official maritime flag of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It is currently displayed outside the office of the speaker of the House. Dozens of historic flags were toted to the Capitol on Jan. 6, as were copies of the Constitution and pictures of the American eagle. Are they all now symbols of “insurrection”?

It might seem that nothing could top such silliness, but never underestimate an obsessive. This week we are also told—in ominous tones—that Justice Alito in August 2023 sold a small holding of shares in Anheuser-Busch some four months after the company’s decision to broadcast its wokeness by forming a public partnership with a transgender social influencer. Investors had for months been fleeing a stock that was near bottom, so if anything, Justice Alito was behind the trend. Yet this act of portfolio management is now presented as proof that the justice supported an anti-transgender “boycott.”

Democratic politicians and activists are racing to translate these meritless stories into futile actions. Nearly 50 House Democrats on Tuesday signed a letter demanding Justice Alito recuse himself from any Jan. 6-related litigation and for Justice Thomas to join him because his wife works in politics. Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen introduced a resolution of censure against Justice Alito, for not having already recused himself from Jan. 6 cases.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer suggested he may call for a vote on a Democratic bill that would dictate recusal standards for the justices—a challenge to the separation of powers. The activist group Demand Justice says it will spend “six figures” on ads calling on Justice Alito to recuse himself. The group began its effort on Tuesday by unimaginatively projecting an upside-down flag onto the Supreme Court building.

This desperation belies any claim that the left’s interest is in ethics at the high court. The nonstop attacks—week after week—are aimed at altering the outcome of high-profile cases currently in front of the court, including Donald Trump’s claim that presidential immunity shields him from criminal charges related to the Jan. 6 riot. If the activists could force a recusal or two, they might sway a decision. If they fail, as they almost certainly will, they will continue smearing the court and casting doubt on the legitimacy of its decisions, with the longer-term aim of enacting legislation to pack the court by adding new justices when the Democrats control the White House and Congress.

The activists see a potential bonus. They hope to use these vapid attacks to turn the election narrative back to Donald Trump and Jan. 6, to suggest chaos and disintegration should Republicans win this fall. Joe Biden’s campaign doesn’t have much else, and the fear tactic has worked in the past.

But the current effort is so obviously a smear job that it could have the opposite of the intended effect. The justices will ignore the demands for recusal, and the public will mark all this down as politics as usual, only nastier.

Write to kim@wsj.com.

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