Tuesday, July 25, 2017
The Last Boy Scout
Trump is certainly not one to miss an opportunity, rallying a bunch of boy scouts at a national jamboree around his health care bill and contempt for Obama. For a man who doesn't want to talk about politics, he sure spent a lot of time talking about politics. 38 minutes worth.
The jamboree became a backdrop for one of his political rallies, in which he openly chastised Obama for not having attended a jamboree during his tenure, although Obama did so via video in 2010, marking the centennial of scouting in America. The rambling speech was full of many cringe-worthy moments, including one in which he turned William Levitt into a strange cautionary tale, although it didn't seem to go anywhere.
More odd was Trump putting Tom Price on the spot in regard to the health care bill Senate Republicans are trying to pass this week. I imagine many parents are concerned about a bill that would make it that much more difficult for them to get coverage for their families, but Trump turned this into a political talking point at the expense of his audience.
Trump was never a scout, but he did commend those in his administration who were scouts, notably Mike Pence, who hosted a camp out on the lawn of the governor's mansion in May, 2016. Oddly enough, the men standing next to him, Rick Perry and Ryan Zinke, are both Eagle Scouts. Zinke proudly wearing his uniform, although no badges for some reason. Surprised he didn't ride into the jamboree on a horse.
The list of Eagle Scouts is long and varied, and also includes Jeff Sessions. But, the Donald seems angry with his AG for not taking a more proactive stance when it comes to the investigations into his administration's ties with Russia. He excluded him from the event much like he excluded Sean Spicer from his audience with the Pope.
The Boy Scouts of America has long been a favorite conservative institution. They can easily identify with its para-military style established by Robert Baden-Powell back in 1910. The BSA very quickly made a connection with the White House in William Howard Taft, who became its first honorary president. Theodore Roosevelt was absolutely bully about the boy scouts, organizing his own troop and eventually becoming Chief Scout Citizen, the highest honor ever bestowed by the BSA. However, that changed to some degree in 2013 when the BSA lifted its ban on openly gay youth. Before that they had a "don't ask, don't tell" policy much like the military. This spurred the Mormon church to scale back its involvement with the BSA, but hasn't seemed to deter other conservatives.
Ever since 1937, the Boy Scouts have been holding a national jamboree. Franklin Delano Roosevelt attended the quadrennial event as have most presidents over the years. Trump had no reason to castigate any former president, yet he used the event to call out Obama, who himself was a scout in Indonesia. The Boy Scouts had become international in 1922, with troops all over the world, even in Russia. They stage international jamborees as well. The next one will be similarly held in West Virginia in 2019.
Not only did our freewheeling president break from tradition by politicizing the event, but he made a mockery of the jamboree, leading many parents to question the Boy Scouts. Some parents were so livid about the nature of Trump's speech, they threatened to take their boys out of scouting. But, what is the BSA to do? It is an open invitation to each president every four years. They can't control what their honorary president has to say. They can only hope that he will stick to tradition.
Sadly, we have learned that Trump can no more stick to tradition than he can to a prepared speech. Seeing such a big crowd no doubt made him feel like he was back on the campaign trail, and so he opened up, as he is wont to do, and let fly with anything and everything that was on his mind, kind of like grandpa at a wedding spilling out all the family problems rather than just congratulating his granddaughter on her day. Now the Boy Scouts of America have to pay the price for his indiscretions.
The BSA is not at fault here. Trump is. This is a man who has repeatedly shown his disdain for our valued institutions. He similarly went off the rails at his CIA speech back in January and a Coast Guard commencement speech in May. I think the NAACP was very fortunate Trump declined an invitation to attend its convention. One hazards to think what he might have said there.
It seems the only way to curb him is to censure him, not that it would do much good. Trump defies all conventions. The more he does so, the more his base loves him. A vicious circle that can only be broken once he is removed from office, and even then we would probably hear a great outcry in this country, a "second civil war" as Alex Jones calls it. These yahoos seem to believe all our institutions have been pervaded by insidious "libtards" and that Trump is their deliverer, the right hand of God so to speak, to lead them out of this liberal dystopia they imagine. For Congress to act against Trump would be for Republicans to face this wrath in the primaries, which is why you see so many GOP senators lining up behind this insidious health care repeal, including our venerable John McCain.
In Trump's eyes, the Boy Scouts are some kind of young patriotic front that he can rally behind his initiatives, much like Hitler or Stalin used youth organizations in their countries. For him everything is political, with just about every organization forced to line up either with him or against him.
It would be nice to think the BSA could remain above this political fray, but it has already shown its contentious side on gay rights and still refuses to merge genders as the military has done. So, it too is very much political in its own right.
How this plays out remains to be seen, but let's hope Trump is not around for the 2019 World Scout Jamboree.