For 80 years, American Presidents have been speaking to the National Scout Jamboree, a gathering of tens of thousands of youngsters from around the world eager to absorb the ideas of service, citizenship and global diplomacy.
In keeping with the Scouts’ traditions, all eight presidents and surrogates who have represented them have stayed far, far away from partisan politics.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt used the occasion to talk about good citizenship. Harry S. Truman extolled fellowship: “When you work and live together, and exchange ideas around the campfire, you get to know what the other fellow is like,” he said.
For a brief moment at this year’s jamboree in West Virgina, President Donald Trump indicated that he would follow that tradition – sort of.
“Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts?” he said.
Then, standing before all 40,000 of them, he bragged about the “record” crowd size, bashed President Barack Obama, criticised the “fake media” and trashed Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. In the 35-minute speech, the President threatened to fire his health and human services secretary if he couldn’t persuade members of Congress to vote for the Republican healthcare bill.
At one point, he told a rambling story about a conversation he had at a New York cocktail party with a once-successful home builder who “lost his momentum.” The lesson, apparently: “You have to know whether or not you continue to have the momentum. And if you don’t have it, that’s okay.”
Throughout the address, Trump dropped in praise for “the moms and the dads and troop leaders” and thanked the Scouts for upholding “the sacred values of our nation.”
It was yet another example of Trump ignoring the custom that past presidents have dutifully observed…