Sen. Marco Rubio spent much of the last week imploring us not to freak out.
Having spent the bulk of March being pilloried for his slavishness to the death merchants of the NRA – and trying to cast himself as a sort of "common sense" go-between, even though he voted against expanded background checks after Sandy Hook – Little Marco now wants to be the calm voice of reason, the adult in a room of hyperventilating children.
And so we all need to calm down. We should not be worried, Rubio says, about the Department of Commerce's plan to include a question about citizenship on the 2020 Census.
"Latest absurd freak out is over #census2020 citizenship question," he tweeted. "In every nation citizenship matters, so shouldn't we know how many we have? And districts apportioned based on # of people not here legally dilutes the political representation of citizens & legal residents."
Never mind that the Census already ascertains citizenship information on the American Community Survey, and that the short-form census hasn't asked about citizenship for a half-century. Never mind that the Department of Justice – headed by unreconstructed racist Jeff Sessions – has dubious motives for seeking the change, which it did ostensibly to protect voting rights. (If you believe that, I've got some swampland to sell you.)
Never mind that the change is nakedly political, designed to give rural conservatives a further lock on power. Right now, the Constitution requires that legislative and congressional districts be divvied up based on the number of residents; however, Republicans have been pushing for this count to be done on the basis of citizens, which would take members of Congress away from immigrant-heavy urban areas and distribute them to rural (read: Republican) areas. The Supreme Court cracked open the door to such a move in a recent decision, and this is a part of a larger plan to exploit it.
And never mind that asking this question will cause an inaccurate undercount of immigrant communities. Undocumented parents of citizen children and other mixed-status households won't want their families included. More than that, though, given the administration's lackluster record on civil rights, it seems likely that immigrants, people in poverty and others who are likely to be undercounted in the first place will decline to participate, which will have lasting ramifications for how billions of federal dollars are spent.
But don't worry about it, Rubio tells us. The Trump administration is totally on the up and up.
Nor should we worry about Trump's firing of National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, whom he replaced with Fox News talking head John Bolton, a man who never met a war he didn't love. Again from Twitter: "Ridiculous media freak out over John Bolton continues. It is a blatant lie to portray him as just some media pundit. With years of combined experience at DOJ & StateDept he is, by far, more qualified than Tom Donilon or Susan Rice were when they got the same job under Obama."
Bolton was, for a hot minute, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. He was a recess appointment under George W. Bush who could not even come close to clearing a Senate confirmation. Thus, when his recess appointment ran out, he and his mustache were banished to cable punditry, where Bolton has advocated for making war on Iran and North Korea and still defends to this day the godawful decision to invade Iraq, which he championed. Bolton was for a pre-emptive strike on a nuclear-armed North Korea (which is nuts) and believes we should bail on the Iran nuclear agreement (also nuts).
Of course Bolton starts wars, for the same reason that when you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail. It's the only thing he knows how to do. And the president isn't sophisticated enough – or, frankly, smart enough – to keep him in check. And that is why John Bolton is so incredibly dangerous.
But the bigger problem is not just Bolton. It's that Trump is removing the guardrails from his own administration. Back in August, the website Axios reported that a group of White House generals, New Yorkers and Republican congressional leaders had formed a loose alliance dubbed the Committee to Save America, more accurately described as a committee to save America from Donald Trump's worst impulses.
This informal group included chief of staff John Kelly, National Security Adviser McMaster and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, three former generals. Now McMaster is gone, replaced by a frothing-at-the-mouth warmonger. The D.C. rumor mill is rife with speculation that Trump might dump Kelly and become his own chief of staff. And who knows how long Mattis – a voice of sanity in this administration, though he was considered overly hawkish by the last one – will hold on. The New Yorkers and the congressional Republicans have similarly been unable to keep Trump in hand; the president is untamed and unbridled, acting on impulse and whim.
The Committee to Save America has failed. Now we have John Bolton and the Committee to End the World.
But sure, Marco. Nothing to see here. Move along.