On Monday, Donald Trump angered many people by giving a political speech at the Boy Scouts of America's National Jamboree. Instead of speaking to the 40,000 young boys gathered in West Virginia in a nonpartisan way, Trump treated the event like a campaign rally. On Thursday, the Boy Scouts apologized for Trump's inappropriate speech, with Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh writing that it "overshadowed" the rest of the conference.
Surbaugh wrote that it's a longstanding tradition, ever since 1937, to invite the sitting president to speak to the Boy Scouts at the event. (In fact, during the speech, Trump even erroneously said that President Obama never spoke at the jamboree, even though he did via a video message, in 2010.)
But in his statement on Thursday, Surbaugh wrote:
For years, people have called upon us to take a position on political issues, and we have steadfastly remained non-partisan and refused to comment on political matters. We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program.
While we live in a challenging time in a country divided along political lines, the focus of Scouting remains the same today as every day. Trustworthiness, loyalty, kindness and bravery are just a few of the admirable traits Scouts aspire to develop – in fact, they make up the Scout Oath and Scout Law.
It's telling that the organization felt the need to apologize for the president. Throughout the week, Trump supporters joked that his opponents just couldn't handle that the large crowd chanted "USA! USA!" and booed for Obama. But Trump's speech was not just political, it was also bizarrely inappropriate.
During his speech, Trump told a weird story about meeting a businessman at a New York City cocktail party and about "getting votes" to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He joked about firing his Cabinet members, called the capital a "sewer," and said, "Who the hell needs to talk about politics?" (The Boy Scouts doesn't endorse potty mouths.)
In addition to being unintelligible at times — there was something thrown in there at one point about camping while Vice President Mike Pence was still the governor of Indiana? — he even joked about Scout values. When he brought up "loyalty," he said that he "could use more" of it, alluding to his on-going, completely imaginary battle with the media.
Normally, presidents give uplifting speeches to the kids about the values of scouting. President Bush, for example, told the boys that their engagement in their community is a core American value. First lady Nancy Reagan spoke on her husband's behalf one year and told the youth not to do drugs. Obama told the Boy Scouts that there was "work to be done" and that they should continue their hard work and volunteering.
Trump using the podium to jab at his opponents and rant about his personal rivalries was totally uncalled for, especially in front of thousands of young men. Scouting is about setting examples. Luckily, the Boy Scouts did the right thing and disavowed the speech before it was too late.