BOSTON (CBS) – Is President Trump making up policy on the fly?
That might be the key question to ask in the wake of the president’s latest tweet-storm, which included this:
“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
But was there really any “consultation?”
According to the Associated Press, the Pentagon seems to have been unaware that President Donald Trump has decided to bar transgender people from the military. A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, refused to answer questions about what Trump’s tweeted announcement means for the current policy, including whether transgender people already serving in the military will be kicked out. ‘Call the White House,’ he said.”
And CNN reports that Mr. Trump’s hand-picked Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, personally intervened to urge the withdrawal of an amendment to the defense authorization bill that would have barred the military from paying for hormone therapy or gender reassignment surgery for military members or their families.
Meanwhile, a reporter for the website Axios tweets the following explanation of the transgender ban from “a Trump administration official”:
“This forces Democrats in Rust Belt states like Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, to take complete ownership of this issue. How will the blue collar voters in these states respond when senators up for re-election in 2018 like Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) are forced to make their opposition to this a key plank of their campaigns?”
Perhaps there’s a method to this… policymaking style. We’ll see if the president really means this, or if it’s just another headline-grabbing statement that disintegrates on its way through the political process.
But here’s a theory that could explain quite a bit of the news we’ve been getting out of this White House: like his predecessor and, surely, other presidents who let their electoral success go to their heads, Trump believes he is a brilliant political strategist, playing chess while others fiddle with checkers.
We don’t have to speculate about this. “I have a very good brain” he said during the campaign. “My primary consultant is myself.”
And this, from last April: “I’m my own strategist.”
There’s an old saying that a pol who tries to manage his own campaign has a fool for a client, but Trump was a notoriously hands-on campaigner, personally overseeing his TV ads and, of course, virtually ad-libbing most campaign speeches.
The result – a stunning, albeit narrow, victory.
But now, he’s president of the United States, apparently making solo, snap decisions on complex issues of law and national defense which he has no apparent qualifications to make so glibly.
And it seems we’re going to find out if that’s any way to run a country.