If the Boy Scouts of America does not denounce what happened Monday at its National Jamboree, it might as well repeal and replace the Scout Oath and Law and rename the organization Trump Youth.
Scouting’s mission is to promote good character. President Donald Trump’s disgusting remarks to 40,000 scouts and leaders in West Virginia — and the embarrassing cheers and chants they provoked — were the essence of bad character.
If that sounds harsh, this is why: I am an Eagle Scout, my three brothers are Eagle Scouts and our father was a Scoutmaster. Despite its flaws, I have always admired the scouting movement. I was relieved when scout officials finally ended their bigotry against gay scouts and leaders. I am still bothered by the organization’s cozy relationship to the National Rifle Association.
But this is a bigger, more fundamental crisis that strikes at the heart of Scouting’s ideals of honesty, character and patriotism. Scout officials must take a stand.
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If they had heeded the Scout motto — Be Prepared — scout officials would have anticipated that turning the stage over to this president would be courting disaster. Just when you think Trump cannot stoop lower, he finds a way.
Trump violated an 80-year presidential tradition of avoiding politics in remarks to Boy Scouts. He even began his speech by implying, profanely, that he would. “Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts?” he said.
Then Trump proceeded to bash America’s free press, Democrats and anyone who questions him. He called the nation’s capital a “cesspool” and “sewer” and elicited boos from the crowd for his predecessor, former Boy Scout Barack Obama, because he didn’t speak at a Jamboree.
Trump invoked the Scout Law’s call for “loyalty” in a veiled criticism of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other officials who have put loyalty to country and the rule of law ahead of their personal loyalty to Trump.
The president bragged that 10 of his top officials had been Boy Scouts. Then he jokingly threatened to fire one of them if the Senate doesn’t repeal the Affordable Care Act, taking insurance away from 30 million people to fulfill a campaign promise.
It is obvious that Trump, a bully and compulsive liar, was never a Boy Scout. He has spent his life and career violating all 12 points of the Scout Law, which calls for a scout to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
Rather than try to inspire patriotism and high ideals in these impressionable teenaged boys excited about seeing an American president, Trump treated them like just another group of fans at one of his Nuremberg-style campaign rallies.
But what was even more sickening was that some of his remarks drew applause, cheers and chants of “We love Trump.” Boys will be boys, but where were their leaders? Where are their leaders now?
“The Scouts believe in putting America first,” Trump told the crowd.
If that is true, the Boy Scouts of America must condemn Trump’s remarks — and some members’ behavior during them — as a shameful affront to their values.