The dustup about the 2020 census citizenship question is rife with political claptrap and vacuous commentary, some of which has appeared on these pages. For example, a regular scribbler of opinion employed a fallacious argument grounded on the quicksand that the writers of the Constitution meant “citizen” when they wrote “person” regarding who should be counted in the decennial census. They wrote “person” because that’s what they meant.

The census is a constitutional mandate to count persons living within the boundaries of the United States, where they live and other pertinent data. Citizenship was not pertinent when the writers included that section in the Constitution. It is not pertinent now. Indeed, at the time of the adoption of the document, the new nation was peopled by thousands of residents who were not citizens, but surely were counted in order to achieve the primary purpose of the count: To determine representation in the U.S. House of Representatives. Representation accrues to non-citizens in the same way as their liability under civil and criminal law.

Let’s be honest. The reason Trumpanistas and their Republican sycophants want to ask the citizenship question is to suppress the count of undocumented residents. It’s a tactic in their strategy to make those people fearful, and thus less likely to reveal their whereabouts to census takers. Republicans know that when undocumented persons become documented, they will vote Democratic. The more the Trump crowd can demonize immigrants, asylum seekers and other minority people, the longer they hold off the day when Democrats gain more clout at the polls. It’s cynical and unAmerican, but there is a perverse logic to it. Late last week, the president backed off his push for the citizenship question, but it will be back.

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I am a fan of legal thriller author John Grisham. Some of his novels are misses, but when he hits, it’s out of the park. The much-praised “Rooster Bar” (Belfry Holdings, Inc., 2018) did not live up to the hype. But “The Reckoning” (Dell edition, 2019) is Grisham at his best.

Set in the mid-20th century South, the novel captures the good-ol’-boy legal system of that time and place, and the endemic racism that affects every aspect of rural and small-town life. The protagonist is a tragic hero who is the victim of a secret that eventually will destroy his deeply rooted Mississippi family. His saga from a multi-generational cotton farm through horrific service in World War II and then back to the farm and “the reckoning,” is as compelling and disturbing a tale as Grisham has ever written. No modern writer weaves a good story and memorable characters into the legal and racial culture of the Old South better than Grisham. “The Reckoning” is a good summer read.

We were traveling through South Dakota and spied a billboard for a restaurant. It said: “Our Mexican food is so good President Trump would build a wall around it.” That’s funny.

We should have stopped for a meal, not because we like Mexican fare all that much, but because the restaurateur's message was more than a good laugh. It underscored the absurdity of the president’s southern border policy, particularly the phony wall that “Mexico will pay for.” There is no wall, but there are children in cages. That’s not funny.