In what many viewed as a left-field attempt at obfuscation to distract from the relentless dysfunction of his leadership coupled with mounting focus on his campaigns links to Russia, President Donald Trump sent one of his salacious tweets last week to suddenly and without notice ban transgender people from serving in the U.S. military.
Trump’s efforts were another swipe at former President Obama’s era of progress on issues related to human and equal rights for LGBTQ Americans.
It was widely reported that the president’s action was intended to serve as red meat for his ultra-conservative base at a time when he is starting to show some slippage among them in the polls.
Not only was the president’s tweet met with staunch criticism from Democrats, it received frustrated push back from many legislators in his own party, a number with military experience, notably former Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain of Arizona, who called the president’s action a mistake.
“I think they realize they made a mistake,” McCain said during a CNN interview last week. “I think generally speaking, it’s accepted you consult the Secretary of Defense before you make a decision that has to do with defending the nation.” These comments followed earlier critical remarks by the senator regarding the president’s tweet. “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,” McCain said earlier in the week. “We should all be guided by the principle that any American who wants to serve our country and is able to meet the standards should have the opportunity to do so.”
In a statement to the press, California Senator Kamala Harris said, “The President’s decision to force transgender individuals out of the military is discriminatory, wrong, and un-American.” She continued, “We should not punish or turn away courageous people who are willing to risk their lives to serve our country—we should embrace them.”
In response to the President’s surprising tweet, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued a letter that stated the nation’s policy on who is allowed to serve in the nation’s military would not change until the White House sent new rules to the Defense Department and the secretary issued new guidelines. As of Monday afternoon, the President had yet to issue those guidelines.
The fact that Trump tweeted his intention to discriminate against transgender individuals on the anniversary of the desegregation of the nation’s military did not go unnoticed. “As we mark the desegregation of our armed forces,” Harris noted, “I stand with our transgender service members and all those who selflessly defend our country.”