WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump blindsided his own Defense Department and Congress when he announced via Twitter Wednesday a ban on transgender people serving in the military, a major policy shift so little thought out that Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders could not even say if it impacted soldiers on active duty.
You don’t treat soldiers willing to die for the nation that way.
This shabby treatment makes hollow Trump’s effusive praise just a few days ago — at the commissioning ceremony for the USS Gerald R. Ford — that “we are so very blessed with warriors who are willing to serve America in the greatest fighting force in the history — the United States military.”
Talk about fake.
Banning transgender people from the military now has popped into play, even though Trump pledged to stand by the LGBT community during his presidential campaign. As Trump said in this June 2016 Twitter post, “I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs.”
Talk about fake.
Trump is intent on reversing former President Barack Obama’s June 2016 decision to lift the ban on transgender people serving in the military — done after a year of study.
Sanders said Trump made the decision Tuesday and told the Defense Department on Wednesday.
Trump cited medical costs concerns in a Twitter post — rushing ahead before the DOD finished a study on costs associated with signing up new transgender recruits. Trump’s move is another play to his base. About two weeks ago, the Republican-led House rejected a measure to bar the Pentagon from paying for gender transition surgeries and hormone therapy.
I can see why Trump wants a distraction:
• Trump is facing backlash from Republicans for humiliating Attorney General Jeff Sessions in speeches and Twitter posts, boiling because Sessions recused himself from the Russian probe.
Fire Sessions and take the consequences if you don’t want him.
Make a decision.
• The Senate looks like it is not headed toward passing an Obamacare repeal and replace bill. Or even a repeal.
• Trump is boxed in by the GOP-run House and Senate over a bill that will make it harder for him to ease sanctions on Russia. The bill has overwhelming bipartisan support. If Trump vetoes the bill, it will add to the conversation that he is too friendly with Russia. Anyway, there will be enough votes to override his veto.
If he signs the bill, he is buying his own handcuffs.
Trump goes holier-than-thou when it comes to things military — and everything else — yet he is perfectly willing to let thousands of transgender soldiers now serving twist in the wind while the DOD and White House determine how to translate Twitter posts into policy.
ILLINOIS REACT: GOP MAINLY DUCKS
In Illinois, it was the Democrats who volunteered something to say. No Illinois Republican in Congress was looking to engage on transgender troops.
Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., was asked in an MSNBC interview and he said “social issues” ought to be “secondary” to the matter of military readiness. “I think that should be the president’s focus.”
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., a wounded Iraq war vet, said in her reaction to the ban, “When my Black Hawk helicopter was shot down in Iraq, I didn’t care if the American troops risking their lives to help save me were gay, straight, transgender or anything else. All that mattered was they didn’t leave me behind.”
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., said “There are thousands of transgender individuals currently serving in uniform, and it is indefensible for their Commander in Chief to target them for their gender identity.”
Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., said Trump’s “arbitrary ban on transgender people . . . dishonors the service and sacrifice of the thousands of transgender troops currently serving.”
Said Rep. Bill Foster, D-Ill., “If implemented, this new bigoted policy would only make us less safe.”
And Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., said “this decision is just as alienating as it is cruel and unnecessary.”
WHAT NEXT FOR TRANSGENDER TROOPS?
So what happens to transgender service members tomorrow? Are they thrown out?
Darn, no one knows.
Said Sanders, “That’s something that the Department of Defense and the White House will have to work together as implementation takes place and is done so lawfully.”
Astounding that a policy switch of this magnitude is announced before any planning to implement it has taken place.
To Trump supporters: Please consider. Whether you agree or not with the policy, this is a sloppy rollout. This is not draining the swamp. This is about governing rationally — and with compassion and gratitude to our transgender troops.