I’ve made no secret about my feelings regarding the current president. In my opinion, he is a disaster for this country — unmoored, unhinged, and unreliable. He is incapable of controlling himself, showing proper decorum, and acting like someone who is supposed to be our leader. The president is not an honorable man. He is vulgar, short-tempered, and unwilling to learn what it takes to do the job properly.
Yesterday, President Trump gave a speech to nearly 40,000 Boy Scouts at the National Jamboree. This is traditional. So one can forgive the BSA for extending this invitation to the president. It isn’t a hard gig — you get up there, you say some words about the Scout Law or the Scout Oath, you encourage these young leaders to go into public service and government work, and you inspire them to be loyal to their country.
What you don’t do is tell stories about cocktail parties you attended where you rubbed elbows with billionaires infamous for their sexual exploits. You don’t curse. You don’t encourage these young people to “boo” your political adversaries. You don’t rehash an election. You don’t undermine national institutions. You don’t bring up old grievances. You try to embody the 12 points of the Scout Law and you end with “God bless the United States of America.”
It should be a break from the scandals and headaches of the office. No one expects you to talk about your struggles in passing legislation or your fights with other members of your party. These are kids. Try to inspire something in them besides pettiness and avarice.
I was a Cub Scout, a Webelo, and a Boy Scout. I spent the summer before my freshman year of high school hiking the Rocky Mountains at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico (one of the BSA’s High Adventure camps). I spent the two summers after that as a camp counselor at Boxwell Scout Reservation teaching young people first aid, cooking, signaling, and wilderness survival. I was a patrol leader, a senior patrol leader, a den chief, and a Scoutmaster. The accomplishments I achieved during my years in Scouting remain some of my proudest. And while the BSA has struggled at times with 21st-century realities, those early stumbles are being addressed. The organization is more inclusive now than when I was a young man in olive drab.
So Scouting holds a special place in my life. That’s why President Trump’s speech makes me so angry.
The president embarrassed himself out there and probably doesn’t even know it. He also embarrassed the BSA. This will be a real test of BSA leadership. Those of us who follow this stuff are looking to see how the organization will react to this speech. How will they address the angry parents, troop leaders, and former Scouts who were appalled by this display of vulgarity and ignominy?
It is hard to describe how much the president betrayed the traditions of Scouting with that speech. Boy Scouts are taught from the beginning to be of service to others. To not make it about them. They are discouraged from appearing in uniform at political events. The National Jamboree is there to celebrate Scouting and Trump made it about himself — his electoral college victory, his perceived lack of respect in Washington, and his petty feud with the media. It was shocking because it was so out of place. Presidents have spoken at the National Jamboree since its inception in 1937. This is the first time the president’s speech has been controversial because this president is incapable of propriety. He cannot control himself. You may say “Mike, how can you say that about a grown man you don’t know?” Because if he could control himself, this would have been the speech to show it. These are kids. They don’t need to hear about your beef with Hillary Clinton. They don’t need to be encouraged to boo anyone, much less the former president who was a Boy Scout. This president does not embody the Scout Law. I’ll show you.
A Scout is Trustworthy:
President Donald Trump has told so many lies while in office that major news organizations are keeping a running list. He lies about big things. He lies about little things. He lies when the truth will suffice. He lies about things that don’t matter. He lies about things no one cares about. He lies to make himself look better. He has a plaque at his Trump National Golf Course commemorating a Civil War battle that never happened. It also features a Trump family crest that he stole, replacing the word “integrity” with “Trump.” Trump is not trustworthy.
A Scout is Loyal:
Much has been made about the president’s demands for personal loyalty. When he began to quote the Scout Law in his speech, he paused at “loyal” to make some snarky comments about the lack of loyalty in Washington. But loyalty goes both ways and the president doesn’t demonstrate loyalty to the people around him. For example, he has been openly criticizing Attorney General Jeff Sessions (an Eagle Scout who was not invited to the National Jamboree with the president). Sessions was one of the earliest politicians to support Trump. He’s now holding onto his job by a thread, while Trump floats replacing him because he is under the mistaken impression that the attorney general works for him and not the people. Trump is not loyal.
A Scout is Helpful:
Trump helps himself and his family by giving them access to government largess and allowing them to grift from the seat of power. But that’s not what the Scout Law is about. Trump helps ISIS by criticizing Islam and changing sides in the Syrian civil war. But he doesn’t help the American people by undermining our national institutions, attempting to take away their health insurance, and breaking his campaign promises with regard to the social safety nets of Medicaid and Social Security. Trump is not helpful.
A Scout is Friendly:
Trump claims to have lots of friends. Sometimes he makes them up, like his friend “Jim” who doesn’t go to Paris anymore. Sometimes he lies about his friendships like with Pavarotti. Sometimes he pretends to be his own friend so he can brag to reporters about how great he is. Trump is not friendly.
A Scout is Courteous:
The president doesn’t hold his wife’s hand while she negotiates stairs in heels. He doesn’t open the car door for her or even allow her to get into the car first, using the door closest to the entrance. People who know Trump use a lot of adjectives to describe him. “Courteous” isn’t on the list. You have to have respect for others to be courteous to them. Trump demands respect from others, he doesn’t offer it in return. Trump is not courteous.
A Scout is Kind:
Eric Trump’s charity, which raises money for childhood cancer research, was recently embroiled in a scandal when researchers discovered that Donald Trump insists on gouging his son’s charity for the use of his golf course, which is the venue for Eric Trump’s big annual fundraiser. All told, Trump skimmed $1.2 million in charitable donations from kids with cancer to the Trump Organization. Trump is not kind.
A Scout is Obedient:
The president was having trouble hiring a personal lawyer to help him with his Russia problems. Four of the top D.C. law firms turned him down citing two specific issues with having Trump as a client: 1) he doesn’t pay his bills and 2) he doesn’t do what he’s told. When you sit in the big chair, it is easy to believe that no one tells you what to do and even if they did, you’re in charge, so you don’t have to listen. But the president works for the people. He’s not a ruler. He doesn’t reign over us. He’s our leader. He is answerable to us. Trump is not obedient.
A Scout is Cheerful:
To be cheerful is to be noticeably happy and optimistic. The president is neither of those things. His entire campaign was based on the idea that America is no longer great. His convention speech highlighted his perceived problems in the country and how only he could fix them. Since taking office, he’s complained and grumbled about how things are done in Washington. His Twitter feed, his main form of communication with the American people, is a litany of petty grievances, deflection, and lies. Trump is not cheerful.
A Scout is Thrifty:
Before becoming president, Trump lived in a golden tower surrounded by golden furniture, golden fixtures, golden wallpaper, etc… Before this speech, the president’s previous interaction with the BSA was in 1989 when his son, Don, Jr. joined a local Scout Troop. The fee to join was $7. Trump didn’t pay it out of his pocket. He had his “charity” pay it — the smallest “gift” the Donald Trump Foundation has on record. A man who will spend millions on golden thrones to rest his ample backside, but requires his “charity” to pay the $7 for his son to join the Boy Scouts is not thrifty. Trump is miserly.
A Scout is Brave:
In 1968, Donald Trump was 22 years old. He was playing football, tennis, squash, and was taking up golf. He was an athlete in high school and college — the picture of health. But when the government enacted the draft for the Vietnam war, he suddenly developed bone spurs in his feet which wouldn’t allow him to serve. Years later, when he ran for president, he often referenced his time in the New York Military Academy as a place where he got “more training” than people in the military. In an interview with Howard Stern, Trump claimed avoiding the STDs from all the women he slept with was his own personal Vietnam. Trump is not brave.
A Scout is Clean:
It is a well-established fact that the president is a germaphobe. He said as much when rumors about urinating Russian prostitutes were in the news. This point of the Scout Law doesn’t just refer to literal cleanliness. Scouts spend a lot of time in dirty situations. It is more about “clean living” than compulsively washing your hands or eating fried chicken with a knife and fork. The president has been ensnared by his celebrity and has used that celebrity to live a life that borders on debauchery. He makes comments about being attracted to his daughter. He was caught on tape bragging about grabbing women, pursuing married women, and using his status to influence them. Trump is not clean.
A Scout is Reverent:
One would be hard pressed to find an instance of Trump being reverent. He shows no respect for others. He’s not one to defer to tradition or decorum. He acts as if the rules do not apply to him. He carries grudges. He spreads lies. He’s greedy and ignorant. He hasn’t got a solemn bone in his body. He may have the support of a slice of Evangelical Christians, but he has no respect for them. If he did, he wouldn’t get up on a stage in front of 40,000 young people and tell a meandering story about one of his billionaire friends known for hosting orgies on his yacht. Trump is not reverent.
The president owes the Boy Scouts an apology. The BSA owes the Scouts who attended this event some guidance as to how to process what they heard and how, despite much of it going against everything they’re being taught as Scouts, they should continue to better themselves and not model the President of the United States, because that man is no Scout.