Trump’s speech at Scout jam­boree roundly crit­i­cized

‘Icky’ po­lit­i­cal rant turned non-par­ti­san event into ‘Nazi Youth rally’

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - JOHN RABY AND KEVIN MCGILL

CHARLESTON, W.VA. — No knot-ty­ing demon­stra­tions. No wood­carv­ing ad­vice. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump went straight to start­ing a fire in a speech at a na­tional Boy Scout gath­er­ing.

Parents, for­mer Scouts and others were fu­ri­ous af­ter Trump railed against his en­e­mies, pro­moted his po­lit­i­cal agenda and un­der­lined his in­sis­tence on loy­alty be­fore an au­di­ence of tens of thou­sands of school-age Scouts in West Vir­ginia on Mon­day night.

“Is noth­ing safe?” Jon Wolf­sthal, a for­mer spe­cial as­sis­tant to Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, wrote on Twit­ter, say­ing Trump turned the event into a “Nazi Youth rally.”

Trump, the eighth pres­i­dent to ad­dress the Na­tional Scout Jam­boree, was cheered by the crowd, but his com­ments put an or­ga­ni­za­tion that has tried in re­cent years to avoid po­lit­i­cal con­flict and be­come more in­clu­sive in an awk­ward po­si­tion.

The knot-ty­ing was left to Demo­cratic Sen. Chris Mur­phy of Con­necti­cut, who said on Twit­ter that his stom­ach was in knots over the pres­i­dent’s over-the-top delivery.

“If you haven’t watched it yet, don’t,” Mur­phy said. “It’s down­right icky.”

The Boy Scouts’ of­fi­cial Face­book page was bar­raged with com­ments con­demn­ing the speech. Sev­eral peo­ple posted links to the Scouts’ pol­icy on par­tic­i­pa­tion in po­lit­i­cal events — which sharply lim­its what Scouts should do. Boy Scouts are typ­i­cally 10 to 18 years old.

One woman wrote in dis­be­lief that the Scouts started boo­ing when Trump men­tioned Obama.

Trump noted from the podium that Obama did not per­son­ally at­tend ei­ther of the two na­tional jam­borees dur­ing his ten­ure. (Obama did ad­dress the 2010 gath­er­ing by video to mark the Scouts’ 100th an­niver­sary. The jam­boree is typ­i­cally held every four years.)

Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son, for­mer pres­i­dent of the Boy Scouts, in­vited Trump to the gath­er­ing, State De­part­ment spokesper­son Heather Nauert said Tues­day.

“When all is said and done, those Boy Scouts, what they will re­mem­ber from the jam­boree in West Vir­ginia is that the pres­i­dent showed up,” Nauert said. “And that’s a pretty in­cred­i­ble thing.”

The push­back from Amer­i­cans over the speech in­cluded mem­bers from both par­ties.

“I just don’t think it was ap­pro­pri­ate,” said Rob Ro­ma­lewski, a Repub­li­can and re­tired in­for­ma­tion­tech­nol­ogy ex­pert from sub­ur­ban New Or­leans who at­tained the rank of Ea­gle Scout as a teenager and has worked with the Boy Scouts all his adult life.

“It just doesn’t seem like he was talk­ing to the boys,” Ro­ma­lewski said. “He was more or less just us­ing it as an ex­cuse to bab­ble on.”

Nancy Smith, a Demo­crat and el­e­men­tary school teacher from Shelby Town­ship, Michi­gan, said she won’t en­cour­age any of her six grand­chil­dren to en­ter Scout­ing. Smith is ask­ing for an apol­ogy from the na­tional group.

The Boy Scouts of Amer­ica said in a state­ment it does not pro­mote any one po­lit­i­cal can­di­date or phi­los­o­phy. They said that it “re­flects a num­ber of cul­tures and be­liefs.”

“We will con­tinue to be re­spect­ful of the wide va­ri­ety of view­points in this coun­try.”

Trump kicked off his speech by say­ing, to cheers from the boys, “Who the hell wants to speak about pol­i­tics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts? Right?”

He be­gan to re­cite the Scout law, a 12-point oath that starts with a Scout be­ing trust­wor­thy and loyal.

“We could use some more loy­alty, I will tell you that,” said the man who is al­leged to have asked fired FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey for a pledge of loy­alty.

In his speech, Trump also jok­ingly threat­ened to fire Health Sec­re­tary Tom Price — an Ea­gle Scout who joined him on stage — if law­mak­ers do not repeal and re­place Obama’s health care law. He called Wash­ing­ton a “swamp,” a “cesspool” and a “sewer.” He re­peat­edly trashed the me­dia, di­rect­ing the crowd’s at­ten­tion to the re­porters in at­ten­dance.

In one aside, he told the boys they could be­gin say­ing “Merry Christ­mas” again un­der his watch.

In the past few years, the Boy Scouts have re­treated from the cul­ture wars, drop­ping their ban on gay Scouts and Scout lead­ers, and try­ing harder to re­cruit mi­nori­ties.

Zach Wahls, an Ea­gle Scout and co-founder of Scouts for Equal­ity, a non­profit group that has pushed to end dis­crim­i­na­tion against gay and trans­gen­der peo­ple in Scout­ing, said Trump’s re­marks “re­ally harmed the Boy Scouts’ abil­ity to do that work, which is all about serv­ing Amer­ica.”

“The wrong speech at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

DOUG MILLS, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Don­ald Trump was cheered by thou­sands of Boy Scouts on Mon­day night.

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