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Guest Editorial: A rigged process and a cynical tweet
Here’s how dystopian our national government has become: President Trump wants to ban patriotic transgender people from serving in the military so that the House will approve funding for his border wall.
Trump tweeted his decision on transgender service members on Wednesday, saying he decided to ban their service “(a)fter consultation with my Generals and military experts.”
First, they are not his generals. But such language is the norm for a president with autocratic tendencies. But more importantly, the announcement came as a surprise to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Tweets are not policy. Military leadership sent word that nothing would change for now for transgender service members.
“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,” Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a memo.
The genesis of Trump’s tweet storm can be found in a congressional debate over whether to ban public funding of surgeries for transgender service members. A coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans voted down such a ban in the defense funding bill.
Several conservative House members were threatening to vote against the giant spending bill unless that provision was included. The bill is larded up with Trump campaign promises, most notably the border wall.
Republican congressional leaders balked at adding the surgery ban, given the earlier vote against such a proposal.
“These transgender service people are serving our country and have signed up and agreed to risk their lives for this country, so we want to honor that commitment as well.” Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida said.
Defense Secretary James Mattis refused to immediately change transgender policies, according to media reports, so the conservatives took their fight to the White House.
Rather than just addressing the narrower issue of paying for surgeries for transgender service members, Trump went further and declared that transgender Americans cannot serve in their nation’s military.
Estimates vary, but the number of transgender Americans currently serving in our military is in the thousands. Trump turned his back on their service and sacrifice. For what?
“Trump’s sudden decision was, in part, a last-ditch attempt to save a House proposal full of his campaign promises that was on the verge of defeat, numerous congressional and White House sources said,” according to Politico.
That includes $1.6 billion for 74 miles of border barrier. The rules of the defense spending bill, approved Thursday by the House, prohibited wall opponents from trying to remove that funding from the bill. That protected Republican House members from having to vote yes or no a wasteful effort that’s popular with much of their party base.
“This is a rigged process,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts.
So that’s where we are. The president dishonors the service of soldiers in order to pass a bill that includes needless border wall spending, and Republican leaders won’t allow a direct vote on the wall funding.