Maybe Missouri Rep. Vicky Hartzler and others really did convince the president that medical costs for our some 6,600 transgender soldiers and sailors, who according to a Rand Corp. study last year pad military health care outlays by all of 0.13 percent, was reason enough to forfeit what a conservative gay columnist only months ago praised as his “heroic defense of LGBT Americans.”
Or, maybe it was part of a deal with Congressional conservatives, an offering paid out in return for a down payment on Trump’s beloved border wall.
Then again, do you think the tweeted transgender announcement might also have been at least in part an improvisational effort to blunt the conservative pushback in response to his continuing jihad against his most effective Cabinet member, Attorney General Jeff Sessions? I do.
When the troops are revolting, as they have been ever since Trump decided to take on his first ally in Washington, diversionary tactics are one way to go.
His matinal tweet storm so took the Pentagon by surprise that some of those he’d claimed to have already consulted had to tell him that no, such a shift could not be made without a lot more study and preparation.
Then, he went right back to taunting the unimpeachably conservative Sessions — presumably in hopes of replacing him with someone who would be willing to fire Russia-probing special counsel Robert Mueller.
Only, Trump’s political instincts as president have been as consistently off as they were canny during his campaign. (Remember when he assumed Democrats would cheer FBI Director Jim Comey’s firing?)
Unlike the president himself, Sessions is a favorite on Capitol Hill as well as among rank-and-file Republicans.
And after Trump’s repeated tirades blaming one of his most loyal lieutenants for everything from letting Hillary Clinton off the hook to recusing himself from the Russia investigation, as the law required, congressional Republicans have made clear that if the president fires Sessions or Mueller, “there will be holy hell to pay.”
Sessions, who knows his president, may have come to Trump’s aid with the Republican base when, in an attempt to keep his job, he groveled on Fox News on Thursday. “Well it’s kind of hurtful,” Sessions said of the president’s attacks, in a perfect more-in-sadness-than-anger tone.
Transparently appealing to Trump’s vanity, he told Tucker Carlson that he was deferring because “the president of the United States is a strong leader” and “determined to move this country in the direction he believes it needs to go.”
No matter what you thought of Sessions before this humiliating display, it was hard not to pity him as he practically thanked his tormentor for the thrashing he knew he needed. Maybe Trump will lay off of him now.
Or maybe at the next cabinet meeting, administration officials will instead of taking turns praising their leader take turns telling him how they, too, have fallen short: “Please feel free to hit my reset button too, sir.”
But if the president’s attempted trans ban does succeed in mollifying social conservatives, the rest of us will be ever more tempted to wonder if there’s any limit to what the religious right will overlook from a man who can’t even get through a speech to Boy Scouts, or to police officers, without dragging them down to his level.
A man who pushed out his chief of staff in deference to the new communications director whose level of vulgarity makes Rahm Emanuel look like one of the Scouts.
And yes, a man whose life today, and not just years ago, continues to mock every one of the professed values that social conservatives had previously considered inviolate.
When you’ve gotten Boy Scouts to boo a president and cops to cheer the suggestion that the world needs more casual violence, what do you do for an encore, anyway? Unfortunately, we’ll soon find out.