Donald Trump’s politicised address to American boy scouts didn’t get the reaction he was hoping for
Despite vowing to avoid politics, the president’s address included references to Obamacare, fake news and “draining the swamp”.
Donald Trump’s address to the 2017 National Scout Jamboree prompted fierce criticism after the president strayed from his message of praise, in favour of a well-trodden disgruntlement at Washington and his political tribulations in DC.
Despite declaring he would put aside politics for the occasion, Trump’s speech was littered with references to “fake news”, political loyalty, and his continuing struggle to “repeal and replace” his predecessor’s sweeping healthcare reforms, known as “Obamacare”.
“Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts? Right?” Trump said, apparently keen to put his battles on hold for the evening.
But a few minutes later his discontent at congressional inaction clearly overwhelmed him.
He said: “You know, I go to Washington and I see all these politicians, and I see the swamp, and it’s not a good place. In fact, today, I said we ought to change it from the word ‘swamp’ to the word ‘cesspool’ or perhaps to the word ‘sewer.'”
There followed a selection of other, strongly politicised statements, ranging from his hope that secretary of health and human services, Tom Price, would “start our path toward killing this horrible thing known as Obamacare that’s really hurting us”, to questioning the scouting honour of his predecessor: “By the way, just a question, did President Obama ever come to a Jamboree?”
But, perhaps most bizarrely of all, Trump drew the ire of spectators for an anecdote about the property developer William Levitt in which he alluded to his former playboy lifestyle.
He said: “And he went out and bought a big yacht, and he had a very interesting life. I won’t go any more than that, because you’re Boy Scouts so I’m not going to tell you what he did.
“Should I tell you? Should I tell you?
“You’re Boy Scouts, but you know life. You know life.”
After a mention of his poor approval rating (“that’s also fake news. They’re fake polls”) and a passing reference to an imaginary ban on saying “merry Christmas” (“And by the way, under the Trump administration you’ll be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again when you go shopping, believe me”), the damage was done: Scouting parents were thoroughly unimpressed.
Hundreds of angry messages soon appeared under a Facebook video round-up posted by the Boy Scouts of America.
One impassioned commenter, Andy Karlson, said: “As a former Scout, as well as a former employee of Philmont Scout Ranch, I am beyond appalled that the Jamboree was turned into a political rally tonight.
“Unless the BSA condemns the president’s conduct (which included bullying, name-calling, and swearing) in strong and clear terms, I will know that there is no place for my two sons in scouting.”
Another, Carol Slayman Fust, agreed, and said: “As a former den leader who saw the boys from wolf cubs through Webelos, as the daughter of a troop leader, as the daughter of an Eagle Scout, as the niece of two Eagle Scouts, as a cousin of two Eagle Scouts, I am appalled and I think an apology is in order.”
Judging by the applause and numerous cheers, not everyone was disheartened by Trump’s idiosyncratic style of address.
But it’s clear that in some circles at least, the president has a little bridge-building to do if he wants to regain the trust of many of the scouting families of America.