Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Sickening Silence of the GOP on Trump's racism, Part 2.

This is a companion post to Scriber’s The Sickening Silence of the GOP on Trump’s racism. They do not understand that Trump is not coming for them - he’s already got them. The NY Times Editorial Board asks How Do You Not Give Donald Trump What He Wants?. The president distracts with outrage. If only Republicans would supply some of it.

They are not about to. The Times tells us why. (h/t Sherry Moreau)

President Trump is at it again.

The president’s Twitter fit on Sunday, instructing four Democratic congresswomen of color — Representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — to “go back” to their home countries, was as wearisome as it was repellent.

Distraction by outrage is one of Mr. Trump’s favorite tactics. Whenever things aren’t going as he wants — for instance, when his crusade to put a citizenship question on the 2020 census fails, or when the dramatic wave of immigration raids he promised his most loyal supporters does not materialize, again — he feels moved to compensate with a remark aimed at refocusing the spotlight.

Mr. Trump uses this gambit to distract from his policy fiascoes, his court losses, his political failures — not to mention news stories or events he finds awkward. Recall the Twitter free-for-all the president launched from Vietnam when his disgraced former fixer, Michael Cohen, was testifying before Congress? Or what about his wide-ranging tweet storm on the first Saturday of his ill-fated government shutdown this past winter?

The more peevish or desperate Mr. Trump seems to be feeling, the more over the top his remarks. One can only imagine what combination of disappointments fueled the presidential funk precipitating Sunday’s tirade, which was among his most blatantly racist public displays in some time. No matter: His comments elicited precisely the sort of media coverage and public outcry that he thrives on. So he did what he usually does: He went a step further. On Monday morning, Mr. Trump demanded that the “Radical Left Congresswomen” he had attacked apologize to Americans, to Israelis and, of course, to “the Office of the President” — i.e., him — for “the foul language they have used, and the terrible things they have said.”

Mr. Trump’s aim of stoking an endless culture war puts his political critics in a bind. They can take his bait and fight back, participating in the divisive distraction he’s designed to energize his supporters, or they can ignore his outbursts and risk normalizing his terrible behavior.

Mr. Trump, who has never shown any interest in winning over most Americans, does everything he can to harden divisions by enraging his opponents. In another Monday tweet, he dared Democrats “to unite around the foul language & racist hatred spewed from the mouths and actions of these very unpopular & unrepresentative Congresswomen.” A few hours later, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, announced that the chamber would introduce a resolution condemning Mr. Trump’s latest affront. In a letter to Democratic members, she asserted: “The House cannot allow the president’s characterization of immigrants to our country to stand. Our Republican colleagues must join us in condemning the president’s xenophobic tweets.”

If only. While Democratic criticism can wind up serving Mr. Trump’s narrow political purpose, rebukes from Republicans would undercut it and, possibly, chasten him. But most Republican leaders appear to be either too delighted by his conservative judicial picks or his deregulatory agenda or too afraid of his impassioned following to speak up. They may well recognize and reject the corrosiveness of his ethnonationalism, they may fear its impact on the country and their party, but most have shown over and over that they won’t do a thing about it.

[Big snip]

“If you’re not happy here you can leave. That is what I say all of the time,” Mr. Trump said. “That’s what I said in a tweet which I guess some people think is controversial — a lot of people love it, by the way. A lot of people love it.”

This tells you everything you need to know about Mr. Trump’s approach to leadership: It’s all about catering to, and fueling, the worst impulses of a minority of American voters.


The Sickening Silence of the GOP on Trump's racism. They do not understand that Trump is not coming for them - he's already got them.

First they came … is the poetic form of a prose post- war confession first made in German in 1946 by the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984). It is about the cowardice of German intellectuals and certain clergy (including, by his own admission, Niemöller himself) following the Nazis’ rise to power and subsequent incremental purging of their chosen targets, group after group. Many variations and adaptations in the spirit of the original have been published in the English language. It deals with themes of persecution, guilt, repentance, and responsibility.

The best-known versions of the confession in English are the edited versions in poetic form that began circulating by the 1950s. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum quotes the following text as one of the many poetic versions of the speech:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Along these lines, Rick Wilson, writing in the Daily Beast explains how Trump Takes a Dump on the American Dream - and offers bad news about how the Trump Horror Show can only get worse. You see, Wilson observes, “The president delivered a mouth-breathing clod take on the majesty and magic of our country, our history, and our Constitution, and a middle finger to our immigrant ancestors.”

Donald Trump’s performance these last few days show how powerful a man devoted to political and racial arson can be when he is beyond shame, reason, and dignity and possessed with the power and platform of the presidency.

In the scope of a half-dozen tweets, President Grievance managed to ignite a racial brouhaha designed to frame 2020, push his white-nat-adjacent audience into paroxysms of joy, and take a massive dump on the American dream. Trump was due for one of his periodic dog-whistles to the alt-reich segment of his base, and he delivered in spades.

[Big snip]

Over the last 240 years, immigrants who came to this country to change their lives and to better the destiny of their children built, prayed, worked, and struggled alongside those here since before the Mayflower. Their sons gave their lives in our wars. The language they spoke, the god they worshipped, and the dances of their homelands were irrelevant in the eyes of the Constitution and the law. America creates Americans.

As flawed as our operating system was in the beginning with the stain of slavery, generations have worked to extirpate that sin, through civil war and civil rights, through the long, slow bending of the arc of history. We are a country with a memory of our mistakes, but still bound together and lifted by a shared commitment to being better than we were.

It wasn’t just that America has been one of the few places in the world where the persecuted and oppressed could rest their heads at night without the terror of the secret police kicking down the door. It was more. The American dream was that anyone from anywhere could come here, work hard, rise to live in prosperity, dignity, security, and even hold political office. Yes, Donald, even Muslims. Even women. Even people with whom we ideologically disagree.

The freshmen-year college-dorm socialism (“ACKTUALLY, true Communism…”), and damn-the-consequences politics of the farthest edge of the Democratic party are rich bait for a predator like Trump. The Squad’s recitation of dumb prog slogans and embrace of ideologies one could describe as unrealistic, juvenile, silly, or deeply offensive aren’t a justification for trying to carve them from American society. I disagree with them on a broad spectrum of issues, but I’ll go down fighting to defend their right to be as wrong and dumb as any other American with a First Amendment right to say whatever the hell they want.

Trump knew precisely what he was doing in telling them to “go back to where they came from.” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was born in New York. Ayanna Pressley was born in Cincinnati, Rashib Tlaib in Detroit. Ihlan Omar was born in Somalia and is a naturalized U.S. citizen. His game is to box the GOP into either supporting him completely, including the expulsion from our nation of the four, or fully embracing their politics. There’s never a nuanced choice in Trumpworld.

Nothing has changed about the power of America to create Americans except the fear, impotence, and weakness of petty, small men. Of all the sad aspects of any nation’s slide into authoritarianism, the most disappointing is the silence of leaders who know better and say nothing. The utter silence of the GOP on this one isn’t shocking, but it is sickening.

There is no excuse for the muttered excuses of people who believe in the Constitution and the American system but live in utter terror of Trump’s Twitter feed. Even today, it’s only a minority of the GOP who buy into this garbage, but if you’re wondering why party members no longer do town hall meetings, public events, or answer questions, it’s that their testicles can’t descend from fear of enraging the Orange One. Even the opportunistic ones know how wrong he is on much of this, but there’s no way in hell they’re leaving the Führerbunker. The worst of them are whispering to reporters, “Well, I disagree with the sentiment, but it’s a brilliant political strategy.”

The dictatorships and totalitarian states of the past and the rising authoritarian technocracies of today aren’t built just by wild-eyed cultists, but by lawyers, bureaucrats, engineers, and political leaders. These men always feel that their individual part is too small to matter, that the obedience to the powers that be and the politics of the moment is just an atomized part of a whole for which are not culpable.

By the time people ask, “Why this, why now, and why me?” to the grim emergences of state power and its inevitable abuses, citizens almost always discover that the Bad Guy came to power because his way was greased by allies hoping to ride the authoritarian tiger to power and influence. Those allies who through active or tacit consent shrug off the early excesses as mere political stagecraft, mere sound and fury to woo the proles, or who promise themselves behind closed doors that they can steer the strongman into wiser paths, are always shocked, shocked to find authoritarianism going on.

The game isn’t over. Totalitarians cannot tolerate dissent in any domain. Trump will feed off the Fox-Breitbart loop, rewarded for this action and need more for an encore.

Why stop there, Donald? I’m sure Bill Barr can whip up an Alien and Sedition Act 2.0 in a trice, or justify using the Alien Enemies Act in novel and cruel new ways. You’ve already flirted with it? Why not take it to bed? How about suspending habeas corpus? Lincoln did it, so can you! FDR interned people! What’s stopping you, cuck?

Why not go all Harry Truman and issue a “Removal of Alien Enemies” executive order? When your targets change from refugees to illegals to legal residents to naturalized citizens to your political enemies born here, then you’re really cooking. How dare those enemies of the people report things that make you look bad? Look at how your boy Vladimir Putin treats those uppity reporters! Shouldn’t you step up your game?

When your wild excesses and grotesque corruption go virtually unnoticed—and certainly unpunished—by an electorate too stunned and numb to respond, why wouldn’t you, or your claque of grubby collaborators, go for the big prize?

Monday, July 15, 2019

Illustrated Gnus for Traumatic Tuesday

That f'ing white house

Here are the other themes, schemes, memes, and falemes in this edition of the Illustrated Gnus (inspired by cartoons from AZ Blue Meanie at Blog for Arizona).

  • The ICE agent cometh. CNN reports that ICE has begun raids to round up undocumented immigrants, official says.
  • Scriber’s Usually Unreliable Sources (SUUS) tell us that First Lady Melania Trump (née Knauss) was threatened with deportation by ICE agents “about your 1996 green card violation and illegal employment.” SUUS also reports that dozens of employees were seen leaving Mar-a-Lago Saturday night.
  • An American captivity 2019 analogy. Hispanic children : cages :: Trump supporters : Fox News.
  • Another American analogy - segregation 2019. White men : drinking fountains :: Hispanics : toilets.
  • If the president does it it cannot be a crime. So, AG Barr says, shooting someone in Times Square is OK.
  • This just in from SUUS - Trump said to be upset that Acosta did not offer him a deal.

Parting thoughts

Mockin' Donald

Check out this YouTube video of 1950s dancers swinging to Rockin’ Robin. Can you spot your Scriber?

America's 'congenital illness', racism, motivates Trump's attacks on congresswomen

Maureen Dowd, columnist at the NY TImes, posted Scaling Wokeback Mountain Sunday morning. If you have the same cultural trouble with the title as did I, let me interpret. “Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez could become Republicans’ not-so-secret weapon in 2020.” I assume Dowd would extend that charge to encompass AOC’s three fellow freshman representatives of color, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts. Here are snippets.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ensorcelled me from the start. I loved the bartender-makes-good Cinderella story, the shake-up-the-capital idealistic dreams, the bravado about how the plutocrat president from Queens wouldn’t know how to deal with a Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx.

[“Me too!” says your Scriber. BTW, thanks to Sherry Moreau for the tip about Dowd’s column. ]

And I imagined the most potent feminist partnership in American history: Nancy Pelosi as sensei, bringing her inside game, and A.O.C., the Karate Kid with a wicked Twitter game.

But instead, the 79-year-old speaker and the 29-year-old freshman are trapped in a generational and ideological tangle that poses a real threat to the Democrats’ ability to beat Donald Trump next year.

Dowd is not the only one to be alarmed about the apparent rift between Pelosi and AOC’s “squad.”

Rahm Emanuel tagged the “… the real instigator, Saikat Chakrabarti, A.O.C.’s 33-year-old chief of staff …” as having “no idea about the battle scars Pelosi bears from the liberal fights she has led.”

“What votes did you get?” Emanuel said, rhetorically challenging A.O.C.’s chief of staff. “You should only be so lucky to learn from somebody like Nancy who has shown incredible courage and who has twice returned the Democratic Party to power.

“We fought for years to create the majorities to get a Democratic president elected and re-elected, and they’re going to dither it away. They have not decided what’s more important: Do they want to beat Trump or do they want to clear the moderate and centrists out of the party? You really think weakening the speaker is the right strategy to try to get rid of Donald Trump and everything he stands for?”

In the age of Trump, there is no more stupid proposition than that Nancy Pelosi is the problem. If A.O.C. and her Pygmalions and acolytes decide that burning down the House is more important than deposing Trump, they will be left with a racist backward president and the emotional satisfaction of their own purity.

Trump brays
Trump's tweets show no bottom to Trump's racism

The worries expressed above about the internal division among House Dems are in no way overstated. Trump jumped on this one like a horsefly on a pile of manure. Put another way, the Pelosi/AOC spat provides Trump and his minions with an opportunity to spread disinformation and thus to practice the politics of division that the Ruskies used against us so well in the 2016 election.

The essence of what Trump did was reported in 538’s significant digits email:

3 of 4 congresswomen
On Sunday morning, President Trump tweeted that “‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen” ought to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Trump seems to have been referring to Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar. All of them are American citizens, and three of the four congresswomen were born and raised in the United States. [CBS News]

Charles M. Blow, another Times columnist, elaborates, asserting that Trump’s Tweets Prove That He Is a Raging Racist. “It is undeniably true that America’s president opposes diversity.”

Donald Trump keeps trying to convince any disbelieving holdouts that he is a raging racist. At least, that’s how I imagine his motives. In truth, it is more likely that his truest nature is simply being revealed, again and again, and he is using his own racism to appeal to the racism in the people who support him.

On Sunday morning, the same day that the Trump administration earlier announced it would conduct raids to round up undocumented immigrants, Trump weighed in again on the conflict between four female freshmen congresswomen and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, tweeting a series of three of the most racist tweets he could produce:

So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly …

… and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how. …

… it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!

I refer you to the facts presented above that the four female freshman congresswomen are citizens of the US, three by virtue of being born here. Like that horsefly, Trump is spreading sh!t.

First, the facts: The country Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib and Pressley “originally came from” is this one. They were born in America. Omar was a refugee from Somalia.

But, this is the most important fact: They aren’t white, and they are women. They are “other” in the framing of the white nationalists. They are descendants of Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

The central framing of this kind of thinking is that this is a white country, founded and built by white men, and destined to be maintained as a white country. For anyone to be accepted as truly American they must assimilate and acquiesce to that narrative, to bow to that heritage and bend to those customs.

It sees a country from which black and brown people come as deficient — “a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world” — because, at its base, it sees black and brown people as deficient.

Start here: because the entire white supremacist ideology and ethos is a lie. America expanded much of its territory through the shedding of blood and breaking of treaties with Native Americans. It established much of its wealth through 250 years of exploiting black bodies for free labor.

And, for the entire history of this country, some degree of anti-blackness has existed. Now, there is an intensifying anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant xenophobia.

America was born with a congenital illness and it has been in need of active rehabilitation ever since, although it has often rejected the curative treatments and regressed.

But, Trump — and many of his supporters and defenders — spew their racism and tell themselves that it is perfectly acceptable when it is read back to them, in much the same way that a dog will eat its own vomit.

… There can be no more discussion or debate about whether or not Trump is a racist. He is. There can be no more rhetorical juggling about not knowing what’s in his heart. We see what flows out of it.

White people and whiteness are the center of the Trump presidency. His primary concern is to defend, protect and promote it. All that threatens it must be attacked and assaulted. Trump is bringing the force of the American presidency to the rescue of white supremacy. And, self-identified Republicans absolutely love him for it.

We are watching a very dark chapter in this nation’s history unfold in real time. We are watching as a president returns naked racism to the White House. And we are watching as fellow citizens — possibly a third of them — reveal to us their open animus for us through their continued support of him.

If you have the time (and the stomach) you can read this Washington Post report on how Trump rejects criticism that his weekend tweet about four minority lawmakers was racist, says they ‘hate our country’. The House Dems (and Rep. Amash) condemned Trump’s racism. The Republicans? Well … in the main they’re OK with what is gushing forth from Trump’s heart of darkness.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Acosta joins many other casualties of Trump's administration - and there are many

The NY Times Editorial Board says Alexander Acosta Won’t Be the Last Trump Official to Resign Thank goodness for career civil servants. (h/t Sherry Moreau)

They have good reason to make such a prediction. The Times also published a couple of graphics showing a record number of departures from the administration, The Turnover at the Top of the Trump Administration.

Even that those numbers may be understated. Last night Rachel Maddow tracked her own tracking of how the numbers have grown; she reports Acosta joins lengthy list of ignominious Trump admin departures.

Rachel Maddow looks back at past efforts to track and list all of the high profile departures from the Trump administration as Alex Acosta, now-former secretary of Labor, has lost his cabinet position in the glare of the Jeffrey Epstein arrest and corresponding scandal.

She illustrated her findings on multiple big screen TVs. It’s worth a look-see.

That’s the meat of it, but for elaboration I’ll take us back to the NY Times editorial:

And then there were none.

O. K., “none” is a bit of an exaggeration. But with Friday’s inevitable resignation of Alexander Acosta, President Trump’s secretary of labor, it is reasonable for the public to be asking: Who the heck is running the federal government?

All the best people. That’s what Candidate Trump promised the nation if elected. He didn’t have experience in government, but he claimed to have an eye for talent and vowed to surround himself with exceptional aides and advisers.

His administration has indeed proved exceptional — in its instability, its swampiness and its turnover at the top. Keeping track of just the top-tier departures requires an advanced knowledge of spreadsheets.

The reasons for the many defenestrations — they are occurring on almost a burning-building scale — can be broken down into a handful of categories, including scandal, getting crosswise with Mr. Trump’s ego, quitting on principle and sheer exhaustion.

While there are too many to list here, some of the highlights include:

Michael Flynn, national security adviser, was forced out in February 2017 after misleading administration officials about his inappropriate chitchat with the Russian ambassador.

Tom Price, health and human services secretary, resigned under pressure in September 2017 over his fondness for high-price chartered air travel.

Rob Porter, White House secretary, left in February 2018 amid accusations of abuse from two ex-wives.

Kirstjen Nielsen, homeland security secretary, was pushed out in April as a result of her insufficient enthusiasm for carrying out the president’s most brutal immigration ideas.

Ryan Zinke, interior secretary, left in December, plagued by multiple investigations into his business dealings and policy decisions.

Jim Mattis, defense secretary, resigned in December in the wake of Mr. Trump’s announced plans to pull American troops from Syria.

Jeff Sessions, attorney general, was forced out in November after more than a year of public abuse by the president, who considered him insufficiently loyal.

Scott Pruitt, Environmental Protection Agency administrator, was forced out last July over a string of scandals ranging from having government aides run his personal errands to having the taxpayers buy him a $43,000 soundproof phone booth.

John Kelly, chief of staff, left in December after a tenure marked by a tumultuous relationship with the president.

Anthony Scaramucci lasted 11 days as White House communications director before getting fired in July 2017 for talking trash about other members of the administration.

Rex Tillerson, secretary of state, learned he’d been fired in March 2018 from a presidential tweet.

H.R. McMaster, national security adviser, resigned in March 2018, having never established a rapport with the president.

As for Mr. Acosta, he resigned this week in response to public outrage over his role in arranging a lenient plea deal in 2008 for Jeffrey Epstein, the financier accused of sexually abusing teenage girls and running a child sex trafficking ring.

Counting interim leaders, there have been seven communications chiefs; four heads each of the Departments of Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services; four national security advisers; three secretaries of defense; and three press secretaries.

The Brookings Institution puts the turnover in Mr. Trump’s “A Team” — defined as top decision makers within the executive office of the president (which does not include cabinet secretaries) — at 74 percent as of Monday. No other modern administration came even close to that.

As key advisers leave, they are being replaced with “acting” chiefs, temporary leaders who do not require confirmation by the Senate, together with the inconvenience of public hearings to establish whether they’re qualified for their jobs. With Mr. Acosta’s departure, the Departments of Labor, Homeland Security and Defense will be headed by “acting” secretaries. There are acting directors of the nation’s top three immigration agencies — the Citizenship and Immigration Services, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection; an acting United Nations ambassador; an acting Food and Drug Administration commissioner; an acting White House chief of staff; an acting Office of Management and Budget director; acting secretaries of the Army and the Air Force; and an acting Federal Emergency Management Agency director — just to name a few. There is no deputy secretary of homeland security.

All this dysfunction presents something of a conundrum for anyone alarmed by Mr. Trump’s governing priorities: On the one hand, would America be better off if this president had a stable team of skilled lieutenants who shared his vision and were dedicated to enacting it, from building a wall to pretending Russia isn’t trying to subvert American democracy? The results haven’t been so great when Mr. Trump has gotten the sort of pliant agents he prefers. As retrograde as Jeff Sessions’s positions were on criminal justice, the country has not traded up in acquiring as attorney general William Barr.

On the other hand, such churn and so many unfilled top posts are, to put it mildly, not ideal in terms of keeping the government running smoothly. As a tropical storm bears down on New Orleans, tensions mount in the Persian Gulf and opioids continue to ravage communities across the country, it is impossible to argue that American citizens are better off with such incompetence at the top.

From income inequality to bigotry to climate change, Mr. Trump didn’t create all the problems confronting the country. But through misguided policies he is making some of them worse. And by driving the federal government more deeply into debt while sowing chaos throughout the bureaucracy, he is doing long-term damage to its capacity to contend with these challenges when an administration with more sensible priorities eventually takes over.

In the meantime, if you find yourself with a chance to thank a federal worker, please do it. Americans are lucky that, even in a time when the leadership at the top is wrongheaded or clownish or simply absent, hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens remain committed to protecting them from foreign adversaries or rising waters or tainted food, to watching over their airways and highways and savings accounts and to delivering their mail.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Budget for combatting child sex trafficking reduced by Acosta - and then looms the next debt ceiling fight

Judd Legum reports this item in a popular.info subscriber’s post to the morning email.

Acosta proposed a massive cut in funds that protect children from sex trafficking

As Secretary of Labor, Acosta is in charge of overseeing much of the federal government’s efforts to combat child sex trafficking. Acosta’s proposed 2020 budget contains an 80% funding cut for the section of the Labor Department that fights “against the sexual exploitation of children.” That section, known as the International Labor Affairs Bureau, would see its funding reduced from $68 million to $18.5 million.

Congresswoman Katherine Clark (D-MA) called the proposed cuts “reckless” and “amoral.” Kathleen Kim, a law professor at Loyola Law School, said the proposed cuts are “bound to expose children to more risk of sexual trafficking” and “will undoubtedly eliminate many of the US government’s anti-human trafficking efforts that have been critical in encouraging action by law enforcement.”

Asked about the proposed cuts at his press conference, Acosta didn’t have much of an answer. He said that those kinds of grants could be cut and restored later.

As Legum said, this was not “much of an answer.”

Bear in mind that the threat to this program may be amplified by other governmental actions (or inactions) such as the looming debt ceiling deadline. Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports At the intersection of a debt-ceiling mess and a shutdown threat.

I’ve long thought of debt-ceiling fights like a scheduled root canal on the calendar: it’s one of those unpleasant things you know is coming, but you’d prefer not to think too much about it until it’s absolutely necessary.

Earlier this week, the Bipartisan Policy Center insisted it’s absolutely necessary. The think tank concluded that federal tax revenue is falling short of projections, so the time we thought we had in advance of the next debt-ceiling increase is evaporating. In fact, the group said the borrowing limit would probably have to be addressed by early September – not October or November, as previously estimated.

As it turns out, the Bipartisan Policy Center isn’t alone in its concerns. The Hill reported this morning that lawmakers are “growing anxious that they might have to vote to raise the nation’s debt ceiling in a matter of weeks.”

Lawmakers had hoped they would be able to avoid the politically painful vote to raise the debt ceiling until the fall – and that it could be packaged with other legislation to fund the government and set budget caps on spending.

But that could be much more difficult if Treasury’s ability to prevent the government from going over its borrowing limit ends in mid-September – just days after lawmakers would be set to return from their summer recess.

At some point, we should all probably have a conversation about why federal tax revenue is proving to be a problem – have I mentioned lately that the Republican tax plan was a bad idea? – but in the short term, the prospect of an ugly train wreck is coming into sharper focus.

Because increasing the debt ceiling isn’t the only related challenge on Congress’ late-summer to-do list.

Not only does it now appear that lawmakers will have to raise the debt limit in September, that will coincide with the expiration of existing federal spending that keeps federal operations running. Politico reported yesterday that the odds of yet another government shutdown are “skyrocketing,” adding, “There’s been next to no progress on a deal to lift mandatory government spending caps that take effect in January, so aides in both parties have said they believe that a shutdown is becoming more and more likely.”

The Washington Post recently reported, “GOP leaders have spent months cajoling President Trump in favor of a bipartisan budget deal that would fund the government and raise the limit on federal borrowing this fall, but their efforts have yet to produce a deal…. The GOP dysfunction — coupled with a new House Democratic majority with its own priorities — leaves the sides much farther apart than they were at this point in last year’s budget process, which ended in a record-long government funding lapse.”

We’ll dig into this in more detail as the deadlines draw closer, but there are three basic elements to keep an eye on: Congress and the White House will have to (1) agree to raise the debt ceiling; (2) fund government operations; and (3) lift budget caps that will otherwise kick in automatically (thanks to that darned sequester law from 2011) and cut more than $100 billion from domestic and military priorities.

The stakes are high, and given what we’ve seen in recent weeks, there’s been little evidence of progress. No wonder lawmakers are starting to feel “anxious.”

Trump to announce 'executive action' on citizenship question for 2020 census

The NY Times reports breaking news about impending “executive action” on the census citizenship question, Trump Turns to Executive Action to Press Citizenship Question on Census. The action, whatever form that it takes, is likely to be announced by Trump this afternoon.

President Trump is planning to take another step in his ongoing battle to place a question about citizenship on the 2020 census by announcing an executive action in the Rose Garden on Thursday, according to a senior administration official familiar with the decision.

Mr. Trump said on Twitter that he would hold an afternoon news conference on the issues of “census and citizenship” days after his attorney general, William P. Barr, suggested he thought there could be a legal path to placing the citizenship question on the census after the Supreme Court blocked its inclusion last month.

Mr. Trump may not issue an executive order on the citizenship question, according to aides briefed on the plan. Executive orders attempt to impose a sweeping unilateral change, as the president has done over 100 times during his presidency, setting up various legal entanglements.

One option, aides said, is a presidential memorandum that is essentially meant to put his administration’s view on the issue into writing. Mr. Trump has written over 40 memorandums since the beginning of his presidency to pursue policy changes on issues ranging from rural broadband internet access to the service of transgender people in the military.

Whatever action Mr. Trump takes will be subject to review in the courts. Last week, Justice Department lawyers acknowledged that the administration remained subject to injunctions barring the addition of the citizenship question.

The administration will presumably have to file motions to lift those injunctions based on Mr. Trump’s action.

The new action will, in any event, almost certainly also give rise to direct legal challenges, and courts may be wary of accepting a new rationale for adding the question when the Supreme Court has already rejected the previous justification as contrived.

There is little doubt, in any event, that the case will again reach the Supreme Court. That case, against the backdrop of a chaotic litigation strategy and shifting legal arguments, will again test the limits of the court’s deference to executive power.