Yesterday, President Trump addressed the 2017 National Boy Scout Jamboree at Glen Jean, WV. About 40,000 scouts, scout leadership, and staff were present. The president missed a huge opportunity to step back from the day-to-day grind of politics and turned the speech into much more of a campaign speech than what one would expect to be focused a Boy Scouts.
This is how it starts, with a lot of familiar elements.
It looks like about 45,000 people. You set a record today.
You set a record. That’s a great honor, believe me.
Tonight we put aside all of the policy fights in Washington, D.C. you’ve been hearing about with the fake news and all of that. We’re going to put that…
We’re going to put that aside. And instead we’re going to talk about success, about how all of you amazing young Scouts can achieve your dreams, what to think of, what I’ve been thinking about. You want to achieve your dreams, I said, who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts? Right?
What followed was a distinctly political speech with vaguely Scout-worthy anecdotes thrown in. This may be the first speech ever delivered to a Boy Scout Jamboree that referenced the stock market, job numbers, and covered electoral results at the state level. That the speech was well received by a majority of the attendees–it was interrupted with chants of “We Love Trump” and “USA, USA”–doesn’t make it right or appropriate.
While I’m not all outragey at the speech (Twitter blue check outrage was in hyper drive), it was inappropriate to the venue and it marks a trend that we saw develop under Obama and beginning to reach full flower under Trump. The shift from campaigning and partisanship to governing and seeking unity on the part of the president is rapidly disappearing, if not gone altogether. Trump is simply taking a page out of Obama’s playbook, to wit, ‘lock in your base and f*** the rest,’ he’s just doing it in a much more Trumpian — that would be ‘loud, crass and gauche’ — manner. Partisan politics has left the cage where we thought we had it safely contained and is now becoming a part of every facet of our lives.
If Trump is re-elected, at the end of his second term we will have gone a generation with the presidency being in perpetual campaign mode. I’m not sure American politics of pre-2009 survives that experience.