He didn't even have the guts to give a press conference. He just sent out a series of tweets with his formal announcement of a very significant policy change. What a lack of courage; what a lack of human decency; what cowardice. Here's what spewed from his twitter fingers.
"After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military. 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."The language and syntax is rather pathetic as a presidential announcement of a major decision, although it's obvious that's what he was trying to do. Actually, I'm not sure that Donald Trump cares one whit about the military (unless they're putting on a massive parade to display "his" mighty army. Or unless he's being saluted by "his" generals. Note in his tweet, he refers to "My Generals." No, besides narcissism, this is pure politics.
The Family Research Council immediately put out a statement thanking the president for keeping his promise. Of course, he also during the campaign promised to "defend the LGBT community." So much for promises.
There's a lot of outrage out there about this, and not just from the trans community. There were the expected supportive statements from Rep. Tammy Baldwin, who said when her Black Hawk helicopter went down, she didn't care about who was rescuing her; what was important was that "they didn't leave me behind." And Nancy Pelosi called it "a vile and hateful agenda that will blindside thousands of patriotic Americans already serving with honor and bravery."
And not just Democrats: Sen. John McCain, who heads the Senate Armed Services Committee, said "any American who currently meets medical and readiness standards should be allowed to continue serving. . . . regardless of their gender identity." Conservative Alabama Senator Richard Shelby told CNN that "you ought to treat everybody fairly and you ought to give everybody a chance to serve." Senator Orrin Hatch: "I don't think we should discriminate against anyone. Transgender people are people."
As Chris Hayes pointed out on MSNBC: Hatch is an 83 year old Republican senator from Utah. And I would add that he is a Mormon. So, if he is supportive, what's the problem? Well, it turns out that it's not so simple.
The National Center for Transgender Equality released this: "This is an appalling attack on our service members; it is about bigotry rather than military readiness, reason or science. It is indefensible and cannot stand."
The Lambda Legal Defense organization said: "The President cannot repeal Defense Department regulations by tweet. But if his tweets become policy, Lambda Legal, along with our partner OutServe/SLDN, will sue him."
Apparently, Trump blindsided the pentagon that had no warning he was going to do this. DoD Sec. Mattis had recently asked the military chiefs for an assessment of the transgender effect on the military; and he gave them until Dec. 1st for a report, 127 days from now. Yes, there had been discussion about whether to provide gender change surgery costs, but -- typical of Trump -- he then suddenly acts impulsively and always over-acts, leaving advisers and agency heads dumbfounded by what he does.
On top of that, he does not take into account the facts behind decisions. Just as in this issue, as shown below how inapplicable some of the supposed basis is for his action.
But here's the thing. As journalists have begun digging into the timing of this, it appears that Trump didn't even do this for the politics of it. It seems that Trump was down into the nitty-gritty of finding places to save money so he could get his defense budget request passed with some funding for his border wall. And he decided that eliminating the medical expenses of transgender military personnel would be a good place to do it. And, if it makes Democrats have to defend paying for transgender surgery in tight political races in Rust Belt states, so much the better. The least consideration went to the reality for trans people who would be affected.
I think that may be even more shameful than paying off a political promise to the Family Research Council -- because it's not based on a strongly held belief. It's just Trump using people as pawns to serve his own needs.
Here's the other thing. The Rand Corporation has done a study that debunks the idea of transgender medical and surgical treatments being a significant factor in the military budget -- because the number who seek such treatments is so small. They also determined that there was no significant "disruptive" effect of having trans persons in the military.
Rep. Tammy Duckworth, interviewed by Chris Hayes, added some interesting, debunking statistics about medical costs. In 2016, the Department of Defense spent $5.6 million on medical care for transgender service men and women; and it spent $41 million on Viagra alone -- and a total of $84 million on erectile dysfunction treatment.
The other question is why did Trump do this today? There's always a reason. What's he trying to distract us from today? I'm going to take it as a sign that he expects they're going to lose the fight for health care repeal and reform.