“By the pricking of my thumbs,” says the Second Witch in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, “something wicked this way comes.”
Donald Trump’s thumbs have been wicked busy on Twitter. On Monday his tweets, like Banquo’s ghost, returned to haunt him again, when Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia cited them as among the reasons she was temporarily blocking Trump’s ban on enlisting and retaining transgender military personnel.
It’s hard to know where this case will go in the long run; but Judge Kollar-Kotelly’s decision is a definite setback from Trump, and a significant win for the cause of transgender rights. Both the transgender ban itself, and the hateful, ham-fisted way Trump rolled it out, are self-inflicted wounds on the prestige and power of the “commander in chief” of the armed forces.
To recap: on July 26, Trump startled his own military by proclaiming in an early morning tweetstorm that:
After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow......— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017
....Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017
....victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017
These tweets at least purported to reverse a complex administrative review of transgender recruitment and retention that the Department of Defense had begun in August 2014. That review included a 91-page report by the National Defense Institute of the RAND Corporation, and a subsequent recommendation by a working group of senior military and defense leaders that transgender people be permitted to serve. In June 2016, then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter set a July 1, 2017, deadline for new rules allowing transgender people to enlist and serve. In the meantime, Carter announced, “transgender Americans may serve openly” without fear of discharge.