Trump and the Boy Scouts

Trump at the Boy Scout Jamboree

Trump at the Boy Scout Jamboree
The Boy Scouts of America just can’t seem to catch a break. First they came under fire for allowing gay boys to join their ranks. Then they came under fire for allowing openly gay men to serve as Scout leaders. And just six months ago they came under fire for redefining boyhood to include transgender girls. Now BSA has come under fire for allowing Donald Trump to address their annual jamboree.

Before I go any further, I should disclose that my Dad was a Scout leader in the 1940’s and 1950’s, and I was a Boy Scout a decade later. Actually I was a Cub Scout, and after a few weeks as a Webelo, I dropped out because they didn’t award merit badges for playing baseball and kissing girls. It goes without saying that my late father’s Scouting career was much more distinguished than mine. In fact, after having served as one of Eisenhower’s regional campaign managers, Dad’s troop was invited up to D.C. for a V.I.P. tour of the White House and Capitol.

It is important to note that in the ’50s and ’60s, Boy Scouts looked up to and admired their elected representatives. Some even dreamed of becoming President one day. Two of them, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, achieved that dream. A lot has changed since then, but boys still want to be inspired by their President, and that brings me back to Mr. Trump, and his visit to the BSA jamboree which was held in West Virginia two weeks ago.

Instead of inspiring the Scouts with carefully chosen words of wisdom, Trump elected to bombard his young audience with a disjointed collection of incoherent, inaccurate, and inappropriate comments. He began by saying, “Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts, right?” The President then proceeded to go on a political rant. Here’s a sampling:

 


  • “Do you remember that incredible night with the maps and the Republicans are red and Democrats are blue, and that map was so red, it was unbelievable, and they didn’t know what to say.”
  • “You know we had a tremendous advantage in the Electoral College, popular vote is much easier.”
  • “I went to Maine four times because it’s one vote, and we won. But we won, one vote. I went there because I kept hearing we’re at 269.”
  • “Then Wisconsin came in. Many, many years, Michigan came in.”
  • “What we did was an unbelievable tribute to you and all of the other millions of people that came out and voted for ‘Make America Great Again’.”

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    Aside from promising not to talk politics, then breaking that promise, most of what Trump said made no sense, especially to a group of boys who were not old enough to vote last November.

    Trump also showed the Scouts his nasty side by saying, “By the way, did President Obama ever come to a jamboree?” He did, however, brag about the fact that ten of his Cabinet members were Scouts, and he talked about the importance of loyalty. But one of those former Scouts is Attorney General Jeff Sessions who the President had publicly berated only days before. So much for teaching the Boy Scouts about loyalty. Trump also mentioned Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price by name, but the reference meant little to those in attendance. Speaking of the Senators who were about to vote on repeal of Obamacare, Trump said, “He (Price) better get them. Oh, he better, otherwise I’ll say, ‘Tom, you’re fired’, and I’ll get somebody else.” Sadly, the only time President Trump came close to inspiring the Scouts, his statement left the captive audience scratching their heads. Said Trump, “Oh, you’re Boy Scouts, but you know life. You know life, so look at you.”

    A few days later, after receiving numerous complaints about the President’s inappropriate remarks, BSA Chief Executive Michael Surbaugh issued a formal statement to Scouts and their parents. “I want to extend my sincere apologies to those in our Scouting family who were offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree. That was never our intent.”

    Reacting to Surbaugh’s letter, Trump told the Wall Street Journal, “I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them, and they were very thankful.” That prompted BSA to issue an immediate denial, saying that they had no record of such a call, and that, “The Chief Scouting Executive’s message to the Scouting community speaks for itself.” A few days later, White House press spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders admitted that the call had never taken place. So much for teaching the Scouts to be trustworthy.

    Donald Trump has a history of making insensitive and inappropriate comments, and he is prone to brag about his electoral victory to whoever will listen. That’s why the President’s remarks at the jamboree should not have come as a surprise to Mr. Surbaugh. In that regard, the BSA executive is as much responsible for what happened as is the man who caused the stir. Still, it was a coup for Surbaugh to land Trump for the event, and, in all fairness, many of the Scouts in attendance cheered the President during his non-political, political speech. In any case, the entire fiasco wouldn’t have happened if Donald Trump had embodied and embraced all of the characteristics required of a good Scout. Certainly the President is clean and thrifty, but he comes up short on being trustworthy, loyal, friendly, courteous, and kind.
     
     

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