Act­ing on im­pulse

The Day - - OPINION -

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.

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