Natural disasters can be a defining moment for a president’s legacy, whether that’s in the form of “Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job,” or President Morgan Freeman comforting a nation as a Deep Impact begins. So as Hurricane Harvey picks up speed off of the Texas coast tonight, we’re happy to note that Donald Trump finally rose to the occasion. Which is to say, he briefly rose to the occasion of getting up from his desk, grabbing a pen, and signing a couple of unpopular presidential orders while people were busy staring at the category 4 storm.
Specifically, Trump finally signed that ban on transgender soldiers serving in the military, which he’s been threatening America’s armed services with since July. In a presidential memo that accompanied the signing, Trump claimed that there’s just not enough research on the effects of transgender soldiers on the military on the books, so we’d better kick them all out to be sure. He also banned the Department Of Defense from funding any new gender reassignment surgeries for currently serving soldiers, falling back on his old “too expensive routine”—one that doesn’t seem to hold a lot of water when the costs of treatment are compared to some of the military’s other medical costs, or Trump’s own travel budget for his nearly weekly vacations. (And, speaking of not holding water, Trump has yet to declare a state of emergency for Texas, despite the fury of the oncoming storm.)
Instead, he also took time out of his day to sign a previously promised pardon for right-wing media figure “Sheriff” Joe Arpaio. Arpaio was recently charged with contempt of court by a federal judge, after blatantly ignoring an order issued by another justice, stating that he could no longer run “saturation patrols” that racially profiled Latino people in Arizona. Trump strongly hinted that he’d be pardoning Arpaio—and, thus, blatantly overturning the legal opinions of two separate members of the federal judiciary—during his rally in Phoenix earlier this week. At the time, he said, “I don’t want to cause any controversy”; that same heartfelt consideration is presumably why he waited for a Friday night, when a major national disaster was about to hit the country, to sign Arpaio’s pardon.