If you are reading this, then you — Jeff Sessions and Robert Mueller included — survived one of the most tumultuous weeks in President Trump’s 6-month-old administration. That’s more than anyone can say about former chief of staff Reince Priebus, former spokesman Sean Spicer, Obamacare repeal, Boy Scout tradition, even respect for the rule of law.
Trump replaced Priebus as chief of staff with Homeland Security head John Kelly. A potty-mouthed braggadocious Trump surrogate, Anthony Scaramucci, is the new Spicer. Despite his threats to Republicans against repeal, Trump couldn’t topple Obamacare. Trump made politics the inappropriate foundation of his speech at the Boy Scouts’ jamboree. He also told police on Long Island to have at it with suspects under arrest, presumed innocence aside.
However, Trump’s out-of-the-blue tweet on Wednesday declaring transgender people no longer welcome in the armed forces was as bewildering as it was unpatriotic; as bigoted as it was needless. It was so disrespectful of an entire group of people, enlisted or civilian, as to be to wholly, irrefutably un-American.
It took the Pentagon by surprise and stunned those targeted — the estimated 15,000 women and men who have volunteered to risk their lives for this country. Our guess is that Trump missed the class on “duty” while he was in military school.
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Trump’s ban would reverse President Obama’s 2016 order letting transgender Americans serve openly and seek sex-reassignment surgery, hormone therapy, and other treatments at military hospitals. Trump failed to explain what would happen to the transgender people already in the service.
With an appalled Defense Secretary James Mattis on vacation, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stepped up, telling commanders and senior enlisted leaders that, “There will be no modifications to the current policy until the president’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance,” Dunford wrote.
In other words, a tweet, even from the president, does not a policy change make.
Once more, the president tried to gaslight an increasingly weary, but infuriated, nation: “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you” he said in another tweet. (Thank you? Nice touch.)
According to the armed forces themselves, the medical care needed for gender change would cost a total of $8 million a year, an infinitesimal fraction of the Pentagon's $600 billion annual budget.
A host of elected officials denounced Trump’s intentions, including Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who has a transgender son, Rigo.
“No American, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be denied the honor and privilege of serving our nation,” Ros-Lehtinen said on Twitter. Absolutely right.
Gender, or changed gender, has nothing to do with patriotism or the ability to serve, proven thousands upon thousands of times by women and transgender troops. And curiously — or maybe on purpose — Trump’s hostile announcement coincided with the anniversary of President Truman’s 1948 executive order wiping out racial segregation in the military.
Trump’s way is incompatible with the values that the members of the armed forces defend with honor. Guess the president skipped that class, too.