It may appear that I’m just playing catch up. Until yesterday I hadn’t posted one of these since June, and now here’s another one. But that’s not it. It’s just that the Trump is coming at me fast and heavy this week, and I can’t afford to get behind the curve. So here’s what happened.
On Monday President Trump spoke before the Boy Scout Jamboree in Glen Jean, West Virginia. Full disclosure: I was a Boy Scout some 60 years ago, but I never attended the Jamboree, an every four years event. Anyhow, the President of the United States set the standard for contemporary public discourse and told the Scouts like it is. I don’t know whether this event was open to the public, but several sources reported on the President’s presentation, one of them being Margaret Hartmann for New York Magazine. In an item appearing in the magazine yesterday, Hartmann summed up some of the President’s comments, a few of which I will share here. Let’s start with his opening:
Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts?
All right! That takes me back to my boyhood days. Actually, it takes me back to my days as a recruit in Navy Reserve boot camp training. Drill instructors gave it to us loud and raw. Not as though our tender ears had never heard such talk before—like, out behind the gym during recess.
The President was just getting warmed up. It is admirable that he decided not to speak about politics.
And you know we have a tremendous disadvantage in the Electoral College — popular vote is much easier. Because New York, California, Illinois — you have to practically run the East Coast. And we did. We won Florida. We won South Carolina. We won North Carolina. We won Pennsylvania. [Applause.] We won and won. So when they said there is no way to victory, there is no way to 270, 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. But then Wisconsin came in. Many, many years — Michigan came in. And we worked hard there. My opponent didn’t work hard there because she was told —
Hartmann notes that at this point there were boos from the audience. These kids were 18 maximum and are primed to vote in the next election. A politician needs to get them early. There were additional non-political remarks:
[Clinton] was told she was going to win Michigan, and I said, well, wait a minute, the car industry is moving to Mexico. Why is she going to move — she’s there. Why are they allowing it to move? And by the way, do you see those car industry — do you see what’s happening, how they’re coming back to Michigan? They’re coming back to Ohio. They’re starting to peel back in.
Hartmann notes applause from the audience. Trump continues:
“And we go to Wisconsin — now, Wisconsin hadn’t been won in many, many years by a Republican. But we go to Wisconsin, and we had tremendous crowds. And I’d leave these massive crowds. I’d say, why are we going to lose this state? The polls — that’s also fake news. They’re fake polls. But the polls are saying — but we won Wisconsin. [Applause.]
“So I have to tell you what we did, in all fairness, this is an unbelievable tribute to you and all of the other millions and millions of people that came out and voted for Make America Great Again.”
At this point the kids shout a Trump campaign slogan, “USA! USA! USA!” Hartmann also notes that Donald Trump is thanking them for helping his victory, overlooking that none of them were voting age last November.
Secretary Tom Price is also here. Today Dr. Price still lives the Scout Oath, helping to keep millions of Americans strong and healthy as our Secretary of Health and Human Services. And he’s doing a great job. And hopefully, he’s going to get the votes tomorrow to start our path toward killing this horrible thing known as Obamacare that’s really hurting us, folks.
[Applause. Crowd chants “USA! USA! USA!”]
He better get them. He better get them. Oh, he better — otherwise, I’ll say ‘Tom, you’re fired!’ I’ll get somebody. [Applause.] He better get Senator Capito to vote for it. You got to get the other senators to vote for it. It’s time. After seven years of saying repeal and replace Obamacare, we have a chance to now do it. They better do it. Hopefully they’ll do it.
By now these Scouts are firm in the knowledge that the Affordable Care Act is a horrible piece of legislation and needs to be repealed. We begin to wonder what the President would have said at this point if he had decided to not avoid politics. The President also gives the Scouts a lesson in real leadership by reminding them he will fire Secretary Tom Price if he can’t corral the votes to repeal the ACA.
Other of the President’s remarks veered into strange waters:
In the Scout Oath, you pledge on your honor to do your best and to do your duty to God and your country. [Applause.] And by the way, under the Trump administration, you’ll be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again when you go shopping. Believe me. Merry Christmas. [Applause.] They’ve been downplaying that little, beautiful phrase. You’re going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again, folks.” [Applause.]
All right, again! That went over well with the Jews and the Muslims in the crowd, on two levels. First the President of the United States gives the false impression it was ever inappropriate to say “Merry Christmas” (I do it every season), and he additionally reminds the Scouts that this country has one favored religion, and that religion is Christianity. The Jewish and Muslim (Hindu and other) Scouts will be sure to take that home to their parents.
If I wanted to summarize the President’s presentation to the Jamboree I would say it was about the most brilliant piece of propagandizing I have come across since I studied the life and career of Nazi Minister for Propaganda and Public Enlightenment, Dr. Joseph Goebbels. Others commenting on the President’s talk report a flashback to the Hitlerjugend of 80 years ago. I admit to having the same experience.
As expected, calmer heads moved to distance the BSA from Donald Trump’s propagandizing. From The New York Times:
The Scouts, plainly sensing a new threat that supporters feared could undermine a movement whose membership is already sagging, said in a statement that the group was “wholly nonpartisan and does not promote any one political position, candidate or philosophy.” The group added that its traditional speaking invitation to the president was “in no way an endorsement of any person, party or policies.”
The Greater New York Councils of the Boy Scouts was somewhat blunter, saying Scouting is an apolitical organization, and “it is inappropriate for any president to use the Jamboree as a backdrop for political statements.”
The BSA in recent years past went through a period during which they had to reconfigure themselves as an exemplar of inclusiveness, lest the organization become like the National Rifle Association, little more than an advocate for narrow political and sectarian ideals. Believably, others have applauded the propagandizing of the Jamboree. Again, from the Times article:
Although Scouting offices and social media accounts were besieged with messages condemning the president’s appearance, others celebrated Mr. Trump’s speech in West Virginia. “Trump gave a great speech to the Boy Scouts and they chanted back, “We love Trump!,” read a Twitter post in the name of Shaun Hough (“Philosopher, conservative, libertarian”). “I love it!!”
Comments posted by readers show variation. Examples:
I could wrap this up by reminding readers that we are experiencing a low point in leadership at our highest office. But I don’t need to.