It's been a couple of weeks since Donald Trump, without warning, announced via Twitter that transgender Americans would no longer be welcome in the United States military. As is often the case with this president, the policy decision stood at the intersection of discrimination and incompetence: Trump hadn't told any of the relevant agencies he was poised to do this, and the White House struggled to defend the change.
Worse, no one in the military knew how to implement Trump's odd tweets, leaving the Pentagon and the service chiefs unsure how to proceed. In fact, since the president's announcement, the military has largely ignored Trump's announcement, pending some kind of policy review.
It's against this backdrop that a reporter asked Trump yesterday why he banned transgender Americans from serving, and why he betrayed a community he pledged to support.
"Look, I have great respect for the community. I think I have great support, or have had great support from that community. I got a lot of votes. But the transgender -- the military is working on it now. They're doing the work. It's been a very difficult situation. And I think I'm doing a lot of people a favor by coming out and just saying it."As you know, it's been a very complicated issue for the military. It's been a very confusing issue for the military. And I think I'm doing the military a great favor."
I'm aware of the fact that saying, "Trump's comments don't make sense" is a phrase that gets a lot of use, but the truth is, the president's defense yesterday was bizarre.
Obviously, the idea that Trump "got a lot of votes" from LGBT voters -- everything always ties back to the election in this guy's mind -- is plainly silly. The idea that he's doing something worthwhile "by coming out and just saying it" might be true, if only someone could explain what "it" referred to.
But even putting that aside, Trump is making it sound as if the Pentagon was clamoring for a ban on transgender troops. There's no evidence of that at all. On the contrary, as recently as yesterday, Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer -- a Trump nominee -- seemed to take issue with his boss' policy. "On a fundamental basis, any patriot that wants to serve and meets all the requirements should be able to serve in our military," Spencer said.
Similarly, Coast Commandant Admiral Paul Zukunft has pledged not to “break faith” with the transgender service members already in uniform.
The ban isn't "a great favor"; it's the opposite. If military leaders welcomed Trump's move, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff wouldn't have left the status quo in place, indefinitely, while the White House tries to get its act together.