Triumph of the shrill: Trump and the Boy Scouts
You don’t have to be an anti-Trump partisan or Trump critic to deem the speech he delivered to 40,000 Boy Scouts at the national jamboree in West Virginia this past Monday night a horrible mess. Putting Donald Trump in front of children is like setting up your sister on a blind date with O.J. Simpson.
He began saying, “…who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts? Right?” Amen. Those young kids are assembled to hear words of duty, discipline, and good deeds.
Trump thanked the dignitaries in attendance and pointed out that ten members of his cabinet, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, were all Boy Scouts. Beleaguered Trump whipping boy Attorney General Jeff Sessions was an Eagle Scout but Trump somehow forgot to mention that. He extolled the virtues of the Scouts, heaping praise on them as well as their parents, which was a nice touch.
If only he’d stopped there. Enter the buffoon.
He mocked President Obama for not appearing before the Boy Scouts (Obama prerecorded a message for the jamboree in 2010.) and blasted the fake news media saying they wouldn’t cover the crowd size of the jamboree.
He went off on a long story about William Levitt and parties with the “hottest people in New York.” I don’t know why he would think 12 to 18 year olds would be remotely interested in the story of a builder who went broke. The kicker was the moral of the story: Levitt lost his wealth because he’d lost his momentum. He repeatedly tells the Scouts that they have to have momentum but then inexplicably tells them that if they don’t have momentum “…that’s okay. Because you’re going to go on and you’re going to learn and you’re going to do things that are great.”
So it’s important to have momentum but you don’t need it. WTF?
Trump talked about repealing and replacing Obamacare because that has to be one of the most important issues facing Boy Scouts today.
He spoke about what a “cesspool” and “sewer” the nation’s capital is. Now of course everyone loves to trash our leaders and there’s no doubt Congress and Trump have earned their lousy approval ratings. But seeing how scouting tries to build leaders, encourage discipline, duty and patriotism, what purpose is achieved by trashing Washington to the younger generation? Why instill the cynicism that’s infected us adults in tomorrow’s leaders?
Talk of the economy and stock market (since I’m sure these Scouts are in the market) led to one of Trump’s favorite topics: his electoral victory. Trump is never more at home in front of a crowd than when he’s masturbating about the election. Riffing about the “fake polls,” his crowd sizes, “dishonest people” who claimed he had no path to victory and his upset win is a greatest hit that he plays in front of every audience, as if we’d never heard it before.
The overwhelming majority could not and did not vote in last year’s election and did it ever occur to Trump that a good portion (maybe even the majority) of these kids came from homes that did not support him? It’s not even a question we should have to ask since a president should not give a partisan political speech before the Boy Scouts. It’s insane that I even had to write that last sentence.
And for some reason on this warm July evening Trump added that under his administration they would be saying “Merry Christmas” when they go shopping. It was a truly asinine non sequitur.
The Boy Scout Law says that a Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. Trump doesn’t represent those values. Donald Trump addressing the Boy Scouts is like Chippendales performing for the Girl Scouts. Completely inappropriate.
Some in the crowd cheered Trump’s remarks and booed Hillary Clinton. No matter what our politics we shouldn’t be heartened by that. We should be disappointed. We should be aghast that the divider-in-chief was left alone with a multitude of children so he could ejaculate Trumpism all over them.
Some have compared it to a Hitler Youth rally but that, of course, overstates what we saw. It was just a damn fool embarrassing himself, dishonoring the Boy Scouts and cheapening the office of the presidency. One thing we don’t need in America is more partisanship. We especially don’t need to teach children to be Trumpists, shrill, rude, tone deaf intolerant partisans with distorted ideas of what it means to be Americans.
What really bothers me is that in September 2009 there was a huge backlash against President Obama when he wanted to deliver a back to school message to the nation’s children. Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer said he didn’t want Obama to “indoctrinate” children with his “socialist ideology.” Hate radio spread fear that the new black president was up to something nefarious. Some parents pulled their children out of school. The reaction bordered on hysteria.
You can read the harmless speech President Obama gave that day. He spoke about doing your best. He talked about students committing to whatever they wanted to be and pursuing their dreams. He spoke about each child having something they were good at and gave them examples from his own childhood as well as stories about other children. He acknowledged that some kids have it tough and come from challenging circumstances. But he told them that where they were now didn’t have to be where they’d end up.
The speech was the kind of encouraging, supportive speech you’d expect an adult to give to children. Why couldn’t Trump do that?