Op-Ed

Trump’s cynical ploy endangered troops, safety

Jennifer Rubin
Jennifer Rubin

It is hard to think of any presidential act, before President Donald Trump’s Twitter announcement Wednesday that he was banning transgender individuals from the military, that was so plainly designed to use the military as a pawn in a self-centered political stunt.

The act was among the most cynical and irresponsible of his presidency, designed to save the president from his own scandals. Never have we seen a president provoke such chaos in the military, acting with no regard for the welfare of the troops or the security of the nation, with no military justification whatsoever.

The irony is great. Trump used military readiness as an excuse to drum up vitriol, but it is his own action that distracts from military readiness, morale and focus on defeating the enemy. The Washington Post reported White House officials “gossiped about what a tough spot they were putting Democrats in.” “It would ‘be fun to watch some of them have to defend’ having transgender soldiers,” the Post said one told Axios.

But it was high-profile Republicans who jumped on the ban. “While they and other senators were seeking answers Wednesday, the White House was providing basically none. The Pentagon was also reportedly in the dark when the announcement was made,” according to the report.

Far from getting advice from military leaders, Trump blindsided them. Not coincidentally, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was on vacation when Trump made his announcement. So, yes, again Trump lied.

As authoritarians are wont to do when they make gross errors, the Trump team refused to answer questions from a stunned press corps. The harried White House press secretary threatened to end the briefing if questions persisted. What a perfect demonstration of their inability to defend their own actions.

Trump may have been taken by surprise himself when a wide array of conservative Republicans, including veterans, condemned the move. Showing how little weight Trump carries, some of the staunchest hawks were the most upset. Trump received a swift kick from Sen. John McCain in a fiery statement:

“There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave the military — regardless of their gender identity.... any American who wants to serve our country and is able to meet the standards should have the opportunity to do so — and should be treated as the patriots they are.”

Trump’s selfish motivation was obvious. In hot water with the right wing and seeing the special prosecutor hot on his trail, he decided to appeal to the worst prejudices of his socially conservative base.

Trump’s impulsiveness and self-absorption make him incapable of thinking beyond his self-interest. He would disrupt our military, create havoc among active service personnel and their families, and lie that this was all the military’s idea — just to distract from his political woes. The good news is this sort of culture-war stunt has lost its potency; Trump and his cultist followers may be stuck in a time warp, but the rest of the country has moved on.

The incident is a reminder that Trump has no clue as to the awesome responsibilities of the presidency. His GOP enablers need to stop this outrageous stunt in its tracks — or lose any claim to be defenders of our military.

The Washington Post

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