A Jamboree of Teachable Moments
Every time I share my concerns about Donald Trump’s impact on America’s children, a certain percentage of readers assure me that no child is paying attention to what our president says.
I hope we can now all agree to put that magical thinking to rest in the wake of Trump’s spectacle of a speech to 24,000 boys attending the Boy Scout jamboree in West Virginia.
Let’s review a few of the many teachable moments by reviewing some of the president’s claims in his 35-minute tirade, which left the Boy Scouts of America later insisting it is a nonpartisan organization — despite what Trump had just inflicted on the organization.
1) Trump: “I said, ‘Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts?’ Right?”
Lesson: When one is asked to address a crowd of people — in this case, more than 40,000 who convene only once every four years — one should act as if he or she comprehends the honor of the invitation. Swearing is lazy. Again I stress: English is a rich language. Let’s explore it together!
2) Trump: “You know, I go to Washington and I see all these politicians and I see the swamp, and it’s not a good place. In fact, today I said we ought to change it from the word ‘swamp’ to the word ‘cesspool’ or perhaps to the word ‘sewer.'”
Lesson: Scouting magazine reports that of the 535 members of Congress, 28 percent have “some sort of connection” to the Boy Scouts of America. Ten senators are Eagle Scouts. (Full disclosure: My husband is one of them, which is how I know that once an Eagle Scout, always an Eagle Scout.) So, many boys who engaged in Scouting have grown up to be men who serve our country as members of Congress. Our president thinks they’re part of the “cesspool” of Washington.
3) Trump: “I’m waving to people back there so small I can’t even see them. Man, this is a lot of people. Turn those cameras back there, please. That is so incredible. By the way, what do you think the chances are that this incredible, massive crowd — record-setting — is going to be shown on television tonight, 1 percent or zero? The fake media will say: ‘President Trump’ — and you know what this is — ‘President Trump spoke before a small crowd of Boy Scouts today.’ That is some crowd. Fake media. Fake news. Thank you.”
Lesson: Coverage of this event by every major news outlet in the country included an accurate crowd count. That’s because journalists believe in including these kinds of facts.
Also, there’s no such thing as “fake news.” If it’s news, it isn’t fake. If it’s fake, it isn’t news.
4) Trump, bragging about his victory against Hillary Clinton: “So I have to tell you, what we did, in all fairness, is an unbelievable tribute to you and all of the other millions and millions of people that came out and vote for ‘Make America Great Again.'”
Lesson: The president is thanking thousands of boys who are ineligible to vote for casting their ballots for him. That’s illegal in the United States. It also didn’t happen.
Oh, and this: Great people never have to say they are.
5) “And by the way, under the Trump administration, you’ll be saying ‘merry Christmas’ again when you go shopping. Believe me. Merry Christmas. They’ve been downplaying that little beautiful phrase. You’re going to be saying ‘merry Christmas’ again, folks.”
Let’s say you’re Jewish. Or Muslim. Buddhist, maybe. Or you don’t believe in God. Despite what the president said, you don’t have to say “merry Christmas.” Even if you celebrate Christmas, it’s OK if you do or don’t say it when you’re out running errands. As a Christmas-celebrating Christian, I can assure you that this is an issue only for those few people whose faith relies on what cashiers say to them in December.
One more thing: The following day, Trump said this in my home state of Ohio: “With the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that’s ever held this office.”
Lesson: Sometimes we just have to laugh.
Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist.