Let's start by acknowledging that Donald Trump does not always have reasons that make any sense to others for what he does. But something as disruptive to the lives of thousands of trans men and women already serving in our military forces needs a reason -- or needs to be revoked.
We've already run through these possibilities:
1. Always, anytime, with Trump, it could just be to create a distraction from some other chaos going on in this administration -- or even just to get attention focused back on him.
2. It may have been to fulfill a campaign promise to anti-LGBT groups, like the Family Research Council.
3. It may be part of negotiating the budget proposal, in which Trump is trying to find money to pay for his Wall; so he saw trans medical expenditures as a trade-off. Problem is that the total spent on a small number doesn't really add up to a significant amount -- actually it's less than 15% of what the military spends every year on Viagra.
4. It could be to solve a problem of disruption in the military ranks -- but that "disruption" is non-existent, from anecdotal accounts, official reports, and from research by the Rand Corporation.
5. It could be pure politics. By abolishing something that was started by a Democratic administration, they think they will force Democrats, in Rust Belt working class areas, to defend taxpayer money being spent on sex change surgery. In fact, early responses suggest that Trump's tweet-order is backfiring as resistance to trans people falls away with actual experience.
But overnight, another possible rationale was identified. It was, at first, a surprise to me; but it makes sense.
Trump has been bullying and humiliating his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, trying to get him to resign. He's angry because he was counting on Sessions as AG to protect him from any investigation by the FBI -- and then he went and recused himself. Actually, he had to; it's the rule in the FBI. But Trump obliviously just continues to act as though it's nothing but a betrayal and personal affront to himself.
The result of all these unfair attacks and bullying of Sessions is that the crowd Trump considers his base is beginning to turn against him. See, if there's anybody they like more than Trump, it's Sessions. He's been their champion for years -- and they like very much what he's been doing as AG on immigration, voting rights, going back to law and order policies, and reigniting the war on drugs.
So, finally, here's this thinking. By sacrificing transgender service members, Trump tried to placate those ultra-conservative, alt-right supporters that were drifting away from him because of the way he's treating Sessions.
Nothing in any of these plausible explanations makes Trump look any better. He plays to a 40% and shrinking base; he's beginning to lose the opportunistic Republicans in Congress who just want to get their agenda passed while they can -- and then they'll pull out of the dive and turn against their albatross.
They're in danger of waiting too late on many important things. But at least they held firm on the Russian sanctions, a potential showdown with Trump on whether he will veto it. And Sen. Grassley, Chair of Senate Judiciary Committee, sent out a tweet to discourage Trump from sacking Sessions. He said the committee agenda was so full, they couldn't get to confirmation of a new AG before the end of the year.
We may be seeing the beginning of the end for Trump.
PS: Update: This was written several days ago and has been in the waiting queue behind all the breaking news. As far as we know six days after Trump sent out the original tweet, he has not followed up with any actual orders to the Department of Defense; and military chiefs are saying they will make no changes until they have been given actual orders and an implementation plan to follow.
Don't be surprised if Trump just drops the whole thing. He quickly pivoted to encouraging police officers to "not be so nice to those thugs," you know, the ones that have been picked up but not yet convicted of anything. He told a group of officers this -- which prompted corrective responses from the New York Police Department, and others, re-iterating their standards for treatment of suspects, which does NOT include roughing them up. Twice in one week, Trump has been rebuked for the content of a speech: first, the Boy Scouts and now the police.