The following article appeared in today’s NY Times. I’ve made a few small edits, but I haven’t changed anything of real importance, in terms of what this decision tells us about our current president’s level of respect for American citizens who risk their lives every day to protect our Nation.
WASHINGTON — President Trump abruptly announced a ban on Jewish people serving in the military on Wednesday, blindsiding his defense secretary and Republican congressional leaders with a snap decision that reversed long-standing policy.
Mr. Trump made the surprise declaration on Twitter, saying that American forces could not afford the “tremendous disruption” of Jewish service members. He said he had consulted generals and military experts, but Jim Mattis, the defense secretary, was given only a day’s notice about the decision.
Mr. Trump elected to announce the ban in order to resolve a quietly brewing fight on Capitol Hill over whether taxpayer money should pay for the non-standard dietary requirements and extra rabbinical clergy needed for Jewish service members, which had threatened to kill a $790 billion defense and security spending package scheduled for a vote this week.
But rather than addressing that narrow issue, Mr. Trump opted to upend the entire policy on Jewish service members, a move that few on Capitol Hill or at the Pentagon expected.
Mr. Trump announced the decision with such haste that the White House could not answer basic inquiries about how it would be carried out, including what would happen to openly Jewish people now serving on active duty; of eight defense officials interviewed, none could say.
“That’s something that the Department of Defense and the White House will have to work together as implementation takes place and is done so lawfully,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said.
Still, the announcement thrilled elements of Mr. Trump’s base, who have been dismayed to see the president break so bitterly in recent days with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a hard-line conservative.
Civil rights and Jewish advocacy groups denounced the policy, with some vowing to challenge it in court. Pentagon officials expressed dismay that the president’s tweets, blasted out before they could consider how to make the change, could open them to lawsuits.
The announcement represented a stark turnabout from Mr. Trump’s rhetoric during his campaign, when he billed himself as an ally of Jewish people.
The president, Ms. Sanders said, had concluded that allowing Jewish people to serve openly “erodes military readiness and unit cohesion, and made the decision based on that.”
Mr. Mattis, who was on vacation, was silent on the new policy. People close to the defense secretary said he was appalled that Mr. Trump chose to unveil his decision in tweets, in part because of the message they sent to Jewish active-duty service members, including those deployed overseas, that they were suddenly no longer welcome.
A recent study by the RAND Corporation found that allowing Jewish people to serve openly in the military “has minimal impact on readiness and health care costs” for the Pentagon. It estimated that extra food and clerical costs for Jewish service members are $2.4 million to $8.4 million a year, representing an infinitesimal 0.04 to 0.13 percent increase in spending. Citing research into other countries that allow Jewish people to serve, the study projected “little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness or readiness” in the United States.