The trouble with all the Trump distractions — meant to divert our attention from the really awful stuff, like the ongoing Obamacare repeal vote-a-rama— is that it’s hard to know which is which.
We’ve got Trump v. Sessions. Mooch v. Reince. Trump/Zinke v. Murkowski, in which Trump’s threats to the Alaska senator for her healthcare vote make Nixon look like a piker.
We’ve got skinny repeal, the last-ditch and most-cynical-yet anti-Obamacare proposal which no one actually wants to become law because it basically does nothing — except to dump individual and employer mandates while offering no replacement. And yet it’s a bill, which strips coverage for 16 million while premiums sharply rise for the rest, that the Senate might pass in order to get some bill, any bill, to “conference.”
Meanwhile, there’s this distraction, this diversion, the Trump twitter announcement that he would ban transgender people from serving in the military in any capacity. It has all the hallmarks of all previous cruel and ill-considered Trump pronouncements.
Trump’s claim that he consulted “his” generals was, of course, a lie. The Pentagon was taken completely by surprise. Defense Secretary James Mattis was on vacation. Gen. Joseph Dunford, chair of the Joint Chiefs, said nothing would change until the Pentagon received instructions. Until then, he pointedly said, all personnel would continue to be “treated … with respect.” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders could answer no questions about how this plan would be implemented because, as you might guess, there is no plan.
Trump’s claim that transgender people are a burden and disruptive takes us back to similar complaints about blacks and women, causing GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch to say “I don’t think we should be discriminating against anyone.” A long list of GOP senators, including Cory Gardner, voiced disapproval. Meanwhile, Trump’s claims about cost have been disproven by nonpartisan studies.
So, why did Trump do this? According to Politico, it all goes back to a House spending bill stuffed with funding for lots of Trump goodies like the border wall. But hawks also wanted a ban on Pentagon-funded sex reassignment operations, which GOP leaders wouldn’t agree to.
“They turned to Trump,” the Politico piece said, “who didn’t hesitate.” But of course no one was asking for a complete ban. House members were as shocked as the generals. As one senior House GOP aide emailed Politico, “This is like someone told the White House to light a candle on the table and the WH set the whole table on fire.”
Diversion or disaster? Or both?