Every evening I go to bed wondering the same thing: Whom will Donald Trump abuse on his Twitter feed next? On many a morning, I wake to find a fresh and heretofore unimagined hell. He’s like the C train, only more reliable. Today, it was news that Trump had appeared to ban transgender people from serving “in any capacity in the U.S. Military,” reversing an Obama-era policy that allowed transgender people to serve openly, and in some cases paid for gender reassignment surgery.
Trump’s three-tweet “policy announcement” (yes, that is a thing now) was roundly condemned for its cruelty from quarters expected and less so. It was also treated by many as a kind of Trumpian purposeful caprice (also a thing now)—as a hastily and ill-conceived, but fundamentally cynical and instrumental, ploy to distract the American public from the issues that really matter.
In a well-intentioned and sympathetic but ultimately thin and, frankly, lazy post that reflected many a media reaction, New Yorker editor David Remnick described Trump’s tweets as a “tactical means” to “divert attention from his woes”—namely the calls to impeach him based on mounting evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to interfere with the election, as well as Trump’s general incompetence and disgusting behavior. Remnick castigates the ban as “pure politics” and “cheap and cruel politics”—which raises the question if Remnick believes there is any other kind of politics, especially when it comes to this president.
Look, I get it. The Russia scandal is a big fucking deal. Transgender people are a small fraction of the overall military, and transition-related costs consume at most 0.13 percent of annual health-care expenditures for active-duty troops, all of which seems like less of a big fucking deal—unless of course you happen to be a transgender service member or vet. The manner in which Trump rolled out this reversal—apparently without consulting the Pentagon, even though he claimed he had—indicates that it was hastily planned; such haphazard actions should be expected by now. And the timing—hours after the Senate failed to repeal and replace Obamacare—suggests some sort of strategery. Moreover, Trump has a long history of using Twitter to seek nothing more than ego gratification, or to indulge in petty feuds that are, yes, also a distraction. Chaos-Evil alignments are confusing that way.