Tags: trump | boy scouts | decorum | george h w bush

Trump's Narcissistic Boy Scouts Speech Disappoints

Trump's Narcissistic Boy Scouts Speech Disappoints
President Donald Trump waves after speaking to Boy Scouts during the National Boy Scout Jamboree at Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve in Glen Jean, West Virginia, July 24, 2017. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

By Wednesday, 26 July 2017 12:31 PM Current | Bio | Archive

The definition of the word juxtaposition is “two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect.” That perfectly describes this past Monday for me.

On Monday, I selected the 2012 HBO documentary film “41.” The film is essentially an extended interview with former President George H.W. Bush as he reflects on his life and touchingly muses on his marriage, his children — including a daughter he lost to childhood leukemia, his military service in World War II, and the associated highs and lows of his political career.

Having come of age and served as an officer in the United States Army during the Reagan Era, I am understandably a fan of the 40th POTUS, a man George H.W. Bush served as vice-president. Like many others, I am guilty of overlooking the 41st, as he was sandwiched, for one term only, between two more famous presidencies — one, Reagan’s, understandably championed by the right, and the other, Bill Clinton’s, lauded by the left. Lost in the shuffle is the presidency of one of the most honorable, decent, dedicated, selfless, and humble presidents in recent history. Sadly, the day his successor was inaugurated brought an end, for me, of the era of decency and decorum and respect for the office that is so sadly lacking at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue these days.

Each presidency following 41’s has seemingly diminished the office. Now, I’m certain I can hear my grandparents saying the same thing about those that followed Ike. But, hear me out. Monday’s day of reckoning for me wasn’t about a Doris Kearns Goodwin-worthy examination of successive presidencies, but rather a confrontation with the stark contrast between the inestimable humility and decency of 41, and the tragicomedy masquerading as an address, that took place at a Boy Scout Jamboree Monday evening in West Virginia. It was there, in the shadow of pup tents and rope corrals that Donald J. Trump left quite the indelible impression.

As a former Boy Scout of middling talents — never reaching the rank of Eagle Scout — I tuned in to the president’s speech out of curiosity and with a bit of Boy Scout nostalgia. However, I’m also accustomed, as we all are, to the president’s tendency to go off script and riff about himself and the slights he perceives and the respect he feels he should be afforded by each and every one of us. We’re numbed by now to the ego and the unchecked hubris and the coarse language. But what transpired in front of thousands of Scouts and their leaders and families was beyond the pale. It was quite the spectacle, the proverbial slow motion car wreck you simply couldn’t look away from. It was simply unprecedented, at a time when we’re getting exhausted from describing things related to 45 as … unprecedented.

“I said, ‘Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts?’ Right?”

And with those words, Donald J. Trump then went on to gracelessly politicize an event that should have remained bereft of politics. But just as he does when he’s in front of a military audience, or a gathering of intelligence agency employees, or when he’s there to dedicate an opening or memorialize an event in history, Donald Trump turns it to himself. He can’t help himself. Really. It’s in his DNA. No matter the solemnity of the proceedings, the sanctity of the venue, or the original purpose behind his appearance, the president turns it into an undignified pep rally — not for country, party, or cause — but for himself. He’s simply incapable of ever grasping the criticality of remaining above politics and acting humble, when he appears in the public square — half a year removed from the 2016 campaign trail.

There were too many to count cringe-worthy utterances during his speech to the young Scouts, and many have been well chronicled. We have come to expect perverse spectacles such as these with Trump, no matter the venue and no matter the cause. His events might as well be set in the old Coliseum. It’s beguiling how clumsy his speechifying, a nails-on-chalkboard assault on the King’s English. We all misspeak. We all make mistakes in wording and/or delivery. But with this president, who comes off as part carnival barker and part snake oil salesman, it’s perplexing how utterly ill-equipped this former successful entrepreneur can be at effective communication. Cue the apologists and the sycophants to tell me I’m a just an unadulterated hater.

And don’t tell me I’m acting like an elitist either. I just want my president to carefully weigh and measure his words. I want him to appreciate where and when things are appropriate. I want him to show deference and exhibit humility, to gloat less and unite more. I want him less interested in self-promotion and grandstanding. I want him to be everything Donald Trump was not when he spoke at that Boy Scout Jamboree.

I truly wish the presidential divide between 41 and 45 appeared less than lightyears of distance apart. Watching the documentary on 41 and then tuning in to 45’s Boy Scout moment made me feel the two presidencies weren’t separated by just a quarter century’s worth of time in-between. It made me feel that each transpired in different centuries … or galaxies. The contrast less a pick’em comparison between Ike and JFK, and more a shock-the-senses devolution from grace to grime. It made me pine for the good ol’ days of read my lips broken promises, supermarket scanning sensor bewilderment, and common decency and decorum as the expected conduct standard of our president.

James A. Gagliano is a 1987 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. Following his service as an Infantry Officer in the U.S. Army, he entered the FBI, serving in a myriad of positions in the investigative, tactical resolution (SWAT), undercover, diplomatic and executive management realms. He was a member of the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) and has posted to assignments in Afghanistan, Mexico City, and parts of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. He retired in December of 2015 from the FBI’s New York City Office. He currently serves as a Law Enforcement Analyst for CNN, provides Leadership consultation for corporate clients of the Thayer Leader Development Group (TLDG) at his alma mater, and instructs undergraduates at St. John’s University in Queens, New York, where he earned an M.P.S. in Homeland Security and Criminal Justice Leadership in 2016. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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It was there, in the shadow of pup tents and rope corrals that Donald J. Trump left quite the indelible impression.
trump, boy scouts, decorum, george h w bush
Wednesday, 26 July 2017 12:31 PM
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