Thursday, rather than defying federal courts, President Donald Trump surrendered, letting the formal count of all persons proceed uncorrupted and resorting to what Census officials and opponents of the question had offered as a better alternative all along: gathering existing federal data across executive departments to come up with a total of citizens and non-citizens. These days, we have to be grateful for small things.

While Trump spun the retreat as a victory, in backing down he revealed just how drenched in bad faith the months-long game of chicken has been.“The Census Bureau projected that using previously available records, it could determine citizenship for 90% of our population or more,” claimed the president, resulting in “an even more complete count of citizens than of asking the single question alone.”

If that were the case, why did the administration put itself through the costly and consuming drama?Why did a GOP redistricting expert tell the White House that a citizenship question on the census could be “advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites”?

Last month, the Supreme Court sent the administration back to lower courts, insisting on a legitimate rationale rather than the long string of lies and evasions. With the clock having run out and no such rationale to be had, the only remaining decision was whether to go rogue or back down.

For once, swaggering, bar-fight-picking president realized discretion is the better part of valor.
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