Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/The AP/ In this combination photo, Kim Kardashian attends The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute benefit gala celebrating the opening of the "In America: An Anthology of Fashion" exhibition on Monday, May 2, 2022, in New York.

WASHINGTON — I was watching Vogue's live feed as Kim Kardashian tried to walk the red carpet at the Met Gala in her skintight, flesh-tone dress, gallantly helped up the stairs by Pete Davidson. I flashed back to Marilyn Monroe on another May night in Gotham, doing similar mincing steps in a similar shimmering dress she was sewn into, when she suspired "Happy Birthday" to JFK.

Then Variety sent out a news bulletin that Kim was actually wearing Marilyn's dress.

As I was contemplating the comeback of this sartorial symbol of American seduction, I got another news bulletin: The Supreme Court was going to yank away the right of women to control their own bodies, strapping us into a time machine hurtling backward.

The two simultaneous emails were a perfect distillation of America's bizarre duality — our contradictory strains of sexuality and priggishness.

Justice Samuel Alito's antediluvian draft opinion is the Puritans' greatest victory since they expelled Roger Williams from the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Alito is a familiar type in American literature: the holier-than-thou preacher, so overzealous in his attempts to rein in female sexuality and slap on a scarlet letter that one suspects he must be hiding some dark yearnings of his own.

Newt Gingrich pursued Bill Clinton like Inspector Javert, even as he was having an affair with a young political aide (whom he later married). And prissy Ken Starr hounded Monica Lewinsky, producing a seven-volume report that read like a panting bodice-ripper, full of lurid passages about breasts, stains and genitalia.

The 1999 version of Donald Trump, when he was still a fan of the Clintons and boasting that he was "pro-choice in every respect," was appalled. "Starr's a freak," he told me back then. "I bet he's got something in his closet."

Like Ronald Reagan, Trump was a Democrat who turned conservative, latching onto the Christian evangelical electorate. As Carl Hulse reported in "Confirmation Bias," Trump soothed conservatives uneasy with his lax morality by promising to appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, chosen from a Federalist Society-approved list. The libertine who transgressed with women traded off their rights to nail down a base.

Now pervy Matt Gaetz tweets, "How many of the women rallying against overturning Roe are overeducated, under-loved millennials who sadly return from protests to a lonely microwave dinner with their cats, and no Bumble matches?" This is a man under investigation over whether he had sex with a 17-year-old and was a sex trafficker.

And let's not even start on Madison Cawthorn's fantasies of drug-fueled orgies.

This past week's stunning reversal on women's rights is the apotheosis of the last 40 years, through Reagan, Schlafly, Meese, Rehnquist and Scalia, climaxing in Mitch McConnell, who made a Faustian bargain to support chuckleheaded Trump to get a conservative court. Because of McConnell's machinations blocking Merrick Garland and ramming through Amy Coney Barrett, Trump was able to name three anti-abortion conservatives to the court, all of whom prevaricated under oath before the Senate about their intentions on Roe.

When will the Democrats stop being betas? As an emotional Gavin Newsom said at Planned Parenthood's Los Angeles headquarters, "Where the hell's my party? Where's the Democratic Party? Why aren't we standing up more firmly, more resolutely?"

The Founding Fathers would be less surprised that there's a popular musical about Alexander Hamilton than they would be that, in an age of space travel, the internet, Netflix and in vitro fertilization, the majority of the court is relying on a literal interpretation of a document conceived in the agrarian 1780s.

They would be devastated that the court is just another hack institution with partisan leaks. Alito helped open the door to dark money and helped gut the Voting Rights Act, but he wants to ban abortion largely because, he says, the Constitution doesn't expressly allow it. That's so fatuous. The Constitution doesn't mention an awful lot of things that the court involves itself with. But while it expressly prohibits state-sanctioned religion, this court seems ready to let some rebel public school football coach convene a prayer session after games. These rogue justices are always ready to twist the Constitution to their purposes.

They are strict constructionists all right, strictly interested in constructing a society that comports with their rigid, religiously driven worldview. It is outrageous that five unelected, unaccountable and relatively unknown political operatives masquerading as impartial jurists can so profoundly alter our lives.

Chief Justice John Roberts has been trying to protect the court's reputation by working to split the difference on some of these explosive decisions. He may be doing that in this case. But he has lost control of a lost-its-marbles majority. To borrow an image from the great Mary McGrory, Roberts seems like a small man trying to walk a large dog. At this point, he can't even see the end of the leash.

The New York Times