President Trump Looks to Defense Secretary James Mattis re Trans Policy

Senate liberals haven’t had the easiest of times adjusting to Donald Trump. After the last decade of shaming conservatives, they’re not exactly used to Republican leaders standing up and confronting them on issues like sexuality. But this president is a rare breed. His policies have never been about what the Left thinks or how he’s labeled. They’ve been about what he can do to make America better. If that means bucking the status quo or offending people who are used to being coddled, he’s willing. And his military transgender policy proves it.

In the year since President Trump ended the days of Obama-era social experimentation in the ranks, Democrats probably believed that they could scare the new administration into submission. When that didn’t happen, and a new memo outlining his policy appeared at the Pentagon last month, they were rattled. Yesterday, in a hearing with Defense Secretary James Mattis, they looked for weak spots to pressure the White House into changing its mind. Fortunately, they found none.

Despite the ranting of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) that Mattis was somehow harming the military by not letting the $3.7 transgender distraction continue, the defense chief held the line. (Video begins at 1:16 here.) Gillibrand accused the Pentagon of not doing its research, despite more than 45 pages of data that proved what a disaster this confusion would be. “It appears,” she says, “that this report your department has issued is not based on the department’s data or science, but rather on quote ‘potential risks’ that the authors cannot back up. In fact,” she continued, “this seems to me to be the same unfounded claims and unfounded concerns that led the opposition to repealing ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’… I think you need to do a lot more work on this topic to inform yourselves.”

Mattis said he “regretted” the way Gillibrand presented the issue, but told her “it would be ‘impossible'” for the service chiefs to answer those questions. For starters, President Obama and then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter never bothered asking them about the policy. Of course, we know from testimonies then that both the Army and Marine Corps had been vocal about their objections to the change. Yet even now, Gillibrand claims, not one member of the branch’s brass will complain about it.

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Mattis pushed back on her assumption, arguing that the chiefs wouldn’t have been able to identify issues, because the Obama era policy didn’t allow it! As FRC’s Peter Sprigg points out, the military wouldn’t have received any reports of unit cohesion problems because Obama’s guidance (which is still in effect) forbids the identification of individual troops as transgender in their reports! It was Ash Carter’s way of insulating the decision from criticism. “The reason is that under the Carter policy, the reporting is opaque. We cannot report that problem emanated from a transgender,” Mattis said. “So, the questions you’ve asked the service chiefs and the chairman are ones that right now the Carter policy prohibited that very information from coming up because it is private information.”

But if complications are what the Left is looking for, active-duty troops identified plenty of them when the Military Times poll asked. Fifty-seven percent had a negative opinion of Obama’s decision to let people who identify as transgender serve openly. More than half said it would have a “very negative” impact on morale. Compare that to just 16 percent who thought the idea would improve troop morale. Secretary Mattis was clear in his testimony yesterday that he came into the job without any position or agenda. But this level of frustration is impossible to ignore.

What wasn’t impossible to ignore, apparently, was the service chiefs themselves — who, Mattis learned recently, were never even consulted about one of the most sweeping changes ever instituted. “Last spring, Mattis said he learned military service chiefs made clear that the Obama administration had not answered key questions about recruiting transgender troops,” the Washington Examiner reported. “They were asking me questions,” Mattis told the senators, “because we were coming up on the advent of the induction of transgender, and they wanted to know how they were going to deal with certain issues, basic training, deployability. I said, ‘Didn’t you get all of this when the policy was rolled out?’ …They said ‘No.’ And I said, ‘Well, did you have input? And they said, ‘No,’ they did not.”

Mattis was astonished. To him, he said, the lack of consultation with the service chiefs was “very, very newsworthy.” It proved what most of us have known all along — that this was a purely political decision that put Obama’s personal agenda ahead of the stability and lethality of the military. Thank goodness for leaders like this president, who know that the Defense Department should never advance a political cause at the expense of national security.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

Tony Perkins
Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law. (Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)

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