SALT LAKE CITY — President Donald Trump's speech to the Boy Scout Jamboree in West Virginia on Monday raised eyebrows and more than a few hackles. For 80 years, presidents have been invited to address the quadrennial gathering, and for 80 years presidents have steered clear of politics when doing so. Not any more.
Trump started the speech with unusual language for a Scout conclave, USA Today notes, asking the Scouts who range in age from 11 to 18 years old, "Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I'm front of the Boy Scouts?" That provoked an enthusiastic response from the audience that included 40,000 Scouts.
The answer, apparently, was the president himself.
In his wide ranging speech, Trump spoke of fake news, mocked Hillary Clinton's campaign efforts in Michigan, and jokingly warned his secretary of Health and Human Services, who attended the event, that he better get the votes to overturn Obamacare or he'd be fired.
Focusing on Trump breaking from tradition, The Washington Post reported: "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 did make passing references to Scouting themes like trust and loyalty, but quickly turned to the political. Health and Human Services "Secretary Tom Price is also here," Trump said. "Today Dr. Price still lives the Scout Oath, helping to keep millions of Americans strong and healthy. And he’s doing a great job. And hopefully, he’s going to get the votes tomorrow to start our path toward killing this horrible thing known as Obamacare that's really hurting us, folks."
The Boy Scouts of America rushed out a statement distancing the organization from the president's political remarks.
“The Boy Scouts of America is wholly nonpartisan and does not promote any one position, product, service, political candidate or philosophy,” the group said in a statement Monday night, Politico reported. “The invitation to visit the National Jamboree is a longstanding tradition and is in no way an endorsement of any political party or specific policies.”
Congressman Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut and a Scout leader, tweeted, "As a Scout leader, my stomach is in knots about what Trump did today. If you haven't watched it yet, don't. It's downright icky."
Conservative commentator Ed Morrissey was also not amused. "In the future, the president needs to discern between a political rally like the one he’ll hold in Youngstown, Ohio, tonight," Morrisey wrote on the website Hot Air, "and appearances that offer him an opportunity to provide a different kind of service. Save the political rally speeches for the crowds that are actually eligible to vote."