July 25, 2017; Washington Post
Nonprofit Quarterly has been vocal about its support of the Johnson Amendment, which has the goal of separating the activities of nonprofits from the mire of political brinksmanship. This story stands as an example of why we take that stance.
There is an 80-year tradition of presidents addressing the annual National Scout Jamboree, the purpose of which is to promote citizenship and service. Usually, this event treats partisan politics with a degree of self-restraint, but that expectation was dashed in President Trump’s Monday address to a crowd that included a lot of children who had come together with a common purpose and a sense of unity.
The Washington Post reports:
Standing before all 40,000 of them, he bragged about the “record” crowd size, bashed President Barack Obama, criticized the “fake media,” and trashed Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. In the lengthy 35-minute speech, the president threatened to fire his Health and Human Services Secretary if he couldn’t convince members of Congress to vote for the Republican healthcare bill.
His message was far from uplifting and unifying. “I go to Washington, and I see all these politicians, and I see the swamp,” he said. “In fact, it’s not a good place—we should change it from the swamp to the cesspool, or perhaps use the word ‘sewer.”
Trump praised the Scouts for their pledges to be trustworthy and loyal, and added, about his fellow Republicans, who are currently refusing to fall in line around healthcare, “We could use some more loyalty, I could tell you that.” He also attacked the press as “fake news” a few times.
In summary, he presented an unsavory view of many of the columns of democracy for the youngsters but he did hold out some hope for tradition, saying, “In the Scout Oath, you pledge on your honor to do your best and to do your duty to God and your country. And by the way, under the Trump administration, you’ll be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again when you go shopping. Believe me. Merry Christmas.”
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Trump was telling a highly relatable story about how even wealthy people can be sad and unfulfilled when he hinted at the non-stop orgy his rich developer buddy and noted racist William Levitt apparently enjoyed after he made his bones.
“[My friend] sold his company for a tremendous amount of money,” Trump told the kids. “And he went out and bought a big yacht. And he had a very…interesting life.”
Trump really leaned into the “interesting” in “interesting life.”
“I won’t go into any more than that ’cause you’re Boy Scouts,” Trump said. “So I’m not going to tell you what he did.”
In response to questions about the speech, the Boy Scouts of America said it is a “nonpartisan” organization and that it has invited every sitting president to speak.
“The Boy Scouts of America is wholly non-partisan and does not promote any one position, product, service, political candidate or philosophy,” it said in a statement. “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 or specific policies.”
“The sitting U.S. President serves as the BSA’s honorary president. It is our long-standing custom to invite the U.S. President to the National Jamboree,” it said.
Needless to say, many parents and troop leaders are not happy, and we’ll have to wait to see where it goes from there.—Ruth McCambridge