Acting on impulse
Donald Trump won the presidency by running as a maverick, the candidate who would not be held to normal political conventions.
But it is one thing to run on such a platform, another to try to run a country that way. There is nothing effective or admirable in failing to do adequate analysis before announcing major policy decisions. The latest examples are President Trump’s transgender military ban and his pardoning of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
On July 26, the president abruptly announced a ban on transgender people serving in the military via a series of tweets. The announcement caught military leaders off guard. Trump claimed he had consulted generals and military experts. There is no evidence of that. The president gave Defense Secretary Jim Mattis less than a day’s notice.
A callous action, it devalued the service to country of the transgender members of the military. Fortunately, the president got pushback from military brass. A tweet is not an order.
Speculation that Trump might abandon the policy change ended this week when he issued a directive precluding transgender individuals from joining the military. It has immediately attracted lawsuits from civil rights advocates.
And the confusion continues. On Tuesday, Mattis announced transgender service members will continue to serve while a panel of experts studies the issue and prepares recommendations. If the panel recommends these individuals should continue to serve their country — as we suspect it will — it will also effectively undermine the reasons for a ban at all.
Some have pointed to costs to justify discriminating against these individuals. That’s a canard.
A Rand Corporation review determined that no more than 140 active-duty service members a year would likely seek gender-transition hormone treatments, even fewer transition-related surgeries. That would add between $2.4 million and $8.4 million to an annual military health care budget of more than $6 billion.
The military spends $41.6 million annually on Viagra, by the way.
A careful evaluation — before the fact — would have led to the conclusion that the ban makes no sense.
Meanwhile, the president pardoned Arpaio of his contempt of court conviction — leveled against the former Arizona sheriff for refusing to stop profiling Latinos — without any advance analysis. There was no review by the Justice Department to evaluate the implications or appropriateness of the pardon, which is standard procedure.
The pardon was a morally detestable decision that undermines the rule of law. Perhaps the president feared a proper review would have borne that out.