Trump targets loyal troops with tweets

AS IF HE DOESN’T have enough controversy to contend with,

President Donald Trump created yet another distraction last month.

He’s banning transgender people from the military.

Or so he tweeted.

He didn’t bother to let the Joint Chiefs of Staff know about his intentions. And his Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who received a day’s notice while on vacation, is reportedly appalled.

Trump’s stated goal is to prevent disorder among the ranks. But his tweet did just the opposite — it caused disruption.

Several thousand transgender service members — some of whom are fighting for their nation in war zones, risking their lives — suddenly wondered if they were going to be discharged because of who they are.

Military leaders responsibly tried to calm the unnecessary chaos created by the commander in chief. They said their policy of allowing transgender troops to serve openly, which began last year, will continue until the president formally issues his directive to Mattis, who will have to draft and implement guidelines.

In other words, Trump has no plan for how to proceed and hasn’t given his military leaders time to develop protocols. Trump also undercut Mattis, who announced a six-month study on the issue in June. Mattis insisted he wasn’t presupposing the outcome of the study. But obviously Trump has.

In a series of tweets Wednesday, Trump said he “will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military,” which “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that ... would entail.”

But a government report counters those assumptions. Allowing openly transgender people to serve has a “minimal” financial impact, according to a RAND Corp. study. It estimated the additional expense for transgender-related health care and readiness at “between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually” — out of a Pentagon budget of more than $500 billion. And just 29 to 129 active-duty personnel would seek gender transition—related services — out of 1.3 million members.

Trump’s claim that transgender soldiers cause disorder is the same excuse that was used to bar blacks, then women, then gays from serving their country. The American military needs the best people it can recruit and retain, not a discriminatory policy aimed at a tiny minority of patriotic and proven troops.

That includes Erika Stoltz of Sun Prairie, whom State Journal reporter Steven Verburg profiled in recently. Stoltz has completed four combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and continues to serve in the Army reserves.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R—Utah, was one of many lawmakers critical of Trump’s tweets last week. Hatch said the military shouldn’t discriminate against anybody.

“Look, people who are transgender, they don’t choose to be transgender,” Hatch said. “They’re born that way. And why should we hold that against them? And they’re human beings, and many of them are extremely talented human beings.”

Hatch is right. Trump — again — is wrong.

The military should continue to treat all of its brave soldiers with respect, even if the president does not. — Wisconsin State Journal, July 30

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