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After bizarre speech, Boy Scouts of America distances itself from Trump

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Another norm, shattered.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

President Trump gave a stunningly political speech to tens of thousands of 11-to-18-year-olds at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia on Monday night, prompting the Boy Scouts of America to distance itself from the spectacle on Tuesday morning.

At various points during his speech, Trump criticized prominent Democrats; blasted “fake news” and “fake polls;” told Scouts that “under the Trump administration, you’ll be saying Merry Christmas again when you go shopping;” characterized Obamacare as “a horrible thing… that’s really hurting us” and threatened to fire his Health and Human Services Secretary if he didn’t succeed in repealing it.

This video captures some of it:

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At another point, Trump shared a meandering story about a wealthy developer who sold his business, bought a big yacht, got “bored” with his debauched life of “yachts and sailing and all of the things he did in the south of France and other places,” and then ultimately decided to buy his business back.

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Trump conflated his politics with the values and work of the Scouts. Despite the fact that most in the audience would have been too young to vote last fall, he portrayed his victory in the presidential election as “an unbelievable tribute to you and all of the other millions and millions of people that voted to make American great again.”

Scouts gave Trump’s speech a rousing reception.

https://medium.com/media/6e550646155867a56daffe1ccfd4083d/href

Presidents have been speaking to the Jamboree for 80 years. As the Washington Post notes, before Trump, presidents usually studiously avoided politics during their speeches.

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.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower invoked the “bonds of common purpose and common ideals.” And President George H.W. Bush spoke of “serving others.”

Trump destroyed that norm. His speech was widely and swiftly condemned by former Scouts.

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On Tuesday morning, the Boy Scouts of America released a statement that stops short of criticizing the president, but distances the organization from Trump’s speech.

“The Boy Scouts of America is wholly non-partisan and does not promote any position, product, service, political candidate or philosophy,” it says. “The invitation for the sitting U.S. President to visit the National Jamboree is a long-standing tradition and is in no way an endorsement of any political party of specific politics.”

“The sitting U.S. President serves as the BSA’s honorary president,” it adds. “It is our long-standing custom to invite the U.S. President to the National Jamboree.”

Since his inauguration, Trump has repeatedly shown disrespect for the independence of historically independent institutions, ranging from the free press to law enforcement to the military.


After bizarre speech, Boy Scouts of America distances itself from Trump was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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