At a CNN town hall leading up to the New Hampshire presidential primary, an audience member with military experience asked Senator Amy Klobuchar what she intended to do about the newly reinstated transgender military ban (link to video):
“If elected, will you commit to overturning President Trump’s transgender military ban and providing gender-affirming health care for all trans service members?”
Klobuchar answered with an unqualified yes, and then went on to explain why. In her view, it was a matter of supporting the people who are able and willing to protect the country. She dryly stated the uncomfortable truth: it’s not like we have so many people qualified and willing to serve that we’re turning them away:
“When people sign up to serve, there isn’t a waiting line.”
“When they come home . . . there shouldn’t be a waiting line. You should get the help that you need.”
She’s right to tie the transgender ban to broader issues of military recruitment. Discrimination for discrimination’s sake doesn’t only limit service by the people directly banned. It also reduces propensity to serve for youth in general. The Palm Center was asked to file expert opinion before the federal Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, and Palm’s testimony noted that “the perception by many Americans that the military is an intolerant and unwelcoming place for sexual and gender minorities makes uniformed service an unattractive option for many potential recruits, particularly for those in the age cohort most likely to be eligible for and interested in service.”
Klobuchar closed by saying that the transgender military ban “is one of the most mean-spirited things in a panoply of mean-spirited things that this president has done.” It’s an important point of context. Lawsuits argue that mean-spiritedness was the very point behind a ban that started with a set of angry tweets, not any concern for military readiness.
We know this because a group of retired generals and admirals—all retired chiefs of military medicine—published a report concluding that there wasn’t any evidence to support the ban. We know this because every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff denied that transgender service was a problem. We know this because President Trump is routinely mean-spirited with members of the military who displease him, most recently with Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a witness at Trump’s impeachment trial.
Senator Klobuchar’s answer shouldn’t have been surprising. Yet the CNN headline was “Klobuchar didn’t hesitate to answer this question.” Why would she hesitate, when all evidence and principle indicates it would be the right thing to do? This expectation of hesitation says more about the editor who wrote this headline than it says about the subject matter.
No one should be surprised when a prospective commander-in-chief pledges to follow the facts. We should be relieved.