Trump’s Speech To Boy Scouts Is Just Another Example Of His Outrageous Narcissism

President Trump delivered a wholly inappropriate political speech to the Boy Scout Jamboree, but that should surprise nobody.

Donald Trump Shrug

President Trump spoke to the quadrennial Boy Scout Jamboree last night, and the event was as unusual as the times we are living in:

GLEN JEAN, W.Va. — President Trump looked out Monday evening at the sea of Boy Scouts who were gathered in a remote field, far away from the travails of the capital, and declared that he would not talk about politics.

“Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts?” he asked.

It turned out he did, at least a little.

Amid standard testimonials to hard work and American values, Mr. Trump launched into a speech to the scouts replete with classic Trumpian jabs at opponents and the “fake media.” He harkened back to his “incredible” election and jokingly told his health secretary that if he failed to deliver enough votes in Tuesday’s health care vote, “you’re fired.”

With an estimated 40,000 scouts, volunteers and others on hand, it was certainly the largest crowd Mr. Trump had seen since his inauguration, and a highly supportive one. As anyone who followed last year’s election knows, Mr. Trump is no boy scout — but he boasted that 10 members of his Cabinet were, including some he brought with him.

“By the way, just a question,” Mr. Trump said mischievously. “Did President Obama ever come to a jamboree?”

He knew the answer was no. While Mr. Obama, like every president since the founding of the Boy Scouts of America in 1910, served as its honorary president, he never came to the jamboree, which is held once every four years, because of policies barring gay scouts and scoutmasters.

Those policies have since changed, and Mr. Trump enjoyed ribbing Mr. Obama. He also needled Hillary Clinton, recalling the time he spent with voters in Michigan during last year’s campaign while she did not. “My opponent didn’t work hard there,” he said.

It paid off on election night, he pointed out, despite pundits and pollsters. “Do you remember that incredible night with the maps?” he said. “And that map was so red it was unbelievable and they didn’t know what to say.”

He also trumpeted the economy and leaned on Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Republican of West Virginia, to vote to open debate on repealing Mr. Obama’s health care law. And he said that “under the Trump administration, you’ll be saying Merry Christmas again when you go shopping.”

Trump’s decision to become blatantly political in a speech that has been traditionally non-partisan quickly drew derision from across the political spectrum, including from Stephen Stromberg at The Washington Post, himself a former Boy Scout, who called the speech  an insult to everything the Boy Scouts stand for:

Sure, scout membership skews right. But those of us who did not fit that stereotype know that the organization is and should be open to all. I spent middle and high school in a small troop that met in a Mormon church but contained Jews, agnostics, a Seventh-day Adventist and various others. The boys’ politics, such as they were, stretched from extremely conservative to socialist. We went on to Harvard and community college, Silicon Valley and the Army. My scoutmasters were store owners, building contractors and, for a brief time, Oscar nominee William H. Macy. (Hey, it was L.A.) This was the 1990s, so the organization still had some growing to do. When one of our fellow scouts came out of the closet, he left the troop. But the BSA has since revised its membership policies to better reflect its mission of offering guidance to all young men.

As Trump spoke Tuesday night, former scouts on Twitter angrily invoked the complete scout law: A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. Trump neither exhibits nor extols any of these traits. He dwells on perceived slights and humiliates those who dealt them; recall when Trump forced Mitt Romney, a good, public-spirited man (and former scout), to publicly kowtow to him, just before rejecting him for any position in his administration. He is a well-documented serial liar who neglects his solemn responsibilities; Republican lawmakers have been perplexed at how little he understands health-care policy, even though he may soon sign a bill that could mean life or death for millions. Also, remember when Trump encouraged his crowds to beat protesters? And remember when he was caught on tape glorifying sexual assault?

Trump’s lesson for 30,000 young men was that the bullies are right and that humility and self-sacrifice are for suckers. Exulting in his election victory, attacking his political opponents and railing on about killing Obamacare, the president celebrated winning — and, specifically, his winning — above all else. His boastful speech did not model public-spiritedness; it showcased the immodesty and one-upmanship that the organization expects its boys to grow out of. Instead of addressing the crowd, the president could have learned something from its finer members, decades his junior.”

On some level, I suppose it isn’t surprising that Trump behaved this way even in front of 30,000 Boy Scouts. The past two years have proven that he is largely incapable of controlling the narcissism, self-absorption, and demagoguery that have defined his character for the vast majority of his public life. The past six months have proven that even becoming President, which has been known to tame the outsized personalities of the men who have held the office in the past, has failed to change who and what Trump is. Given that, the fact that he would essentially use a speech to a gathering of teen and pre-teenage boys dedicated to the values that scouting is supposed to inculcate to promote himself and engage in petty attacks on his enemies and even those closest to him who he perceives as not being loyal to him should not be surprising at all.

In addition to giving a wholly inappropriate political speech, Trump managed to turn his appearance at the Jamboree to engage in some of the same political back-stabbing that has become all too common from this White House. In this case, Trump invited several members of his campaign who were former Boy Scouts, such as Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. Noticeably not present was Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was a Boy Scout and an Eagle Scout and who of course has recently become a target for public humiliation by the President of the United States. This isn’t dissimilar to the way Trump treated Sean Spicer during the trip earlier this year to Rome when it was decided that Spicer, a devout Catholic who apparently had made it known that he hoped to be invited along to the audience with Pope Francis, was left off the invite list by the White House in what was widely, and probably accurately, seen as a decision by Trump to silently humiliate his Press Secretary. Trump himself, by the way, was not a Boy Scout or a Cub Scout, although there are five former Presidents who were involved with the organization, including John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.

While I largely share the disdain that Stromberg feels regarding Trump’s speech last night, it’s becoming increasingly hard to put into words just how bad this President is becoming so early in his Administration. As Peter Baker puts it in a piece in The New York Times, the President is testing the nation’s capacity for outrage, and it only seems likely to get worse long before it gets better. The sad truth, though, is that the people who voted for Trump and who continue to support him did so knowing that this is exactly what they would get if he managed to win. The fact that he spoke to a group of Boy Scouts in the same manner that he would speak to a bunch of his rapid supporters at a political rally should be neither surprising nor shocking at this point. This is what you signed up for, Trump supporters. The only problem is that you’re forcing the rest of us to live through it too.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    He thanked 30,000 teens and pre-teens for voting for him.
    What a fwcking nut-job.
    Anyone voted for, or who still supports, this man-child is a complete fool.

  2. CSK says:

    Doug, the Trumpkins are enjoying forcing the rest of us to live through this.

  3. Mark Ivey says:

    “Can’t wait to see the new merit badges…. Pump and dump badge, first firing badge, mean tweet badge… Etc..” #TrumpBoyScouts

  4. Scott says:

    Fortunately, Scouts are teenage boys. They probably didn’t listen very closely and were resentful that they had to stay and listen. They had better things to do. Probably will leave with a negative impression. And in four years most will be voting.

  5. KM says:

    Some will be on-board but hopefully most of them saw an fat angry old man yelling about weird stuff, looking ridiculous while doing so and went “OMG, I’m not gonna end up like that” Pay attention Scouts: this is what addiction to Rage-ahol looks like. Even if you make it to the Presidency of the United States, you’re still somehow the biggest loser in the crowd and always look two steps away from soiling yourself when you rage. It’s not a good look, kids. Don’t be like Donny – be a winner!!!!

  6. al-Ameda says:

    The fact that he spoke to a group of Boy Scouts in the same manner that he would speak to a bunch of his rapid supporters at a political rally should be neither surprising nor shocking at this point. This is what you signed up for, Trump supporters. The only problem is that you’re forcing the rest of us to live through it too.

    For Trump life is lived in the arrested development stage of a teenage boy.

    That’s right, 62 million Americans voted to have an impulsive preening, lying, inconsiderate teenage boy as their president.

  7. Inhuman99 says:

    This speech weaponized the Boy Scouts, no going back from that so it is a big deal as far as I am concerned. My brother’s best friends son became an Eagle Scout and my Sis in-law’s godson was at the jamboree. I no longer respect the Boy Scouts (and I say this as someone with a sister who was a Girl Scout), and will avoid the subject with my my bro and his wife because I think folks who are Boy Scouts should resign and disavow the organization.

    The head people in the Boy Scouts organization should have pulled a Trump and upended tradition by not inviting him to the jamboree. There would have been some push back from Trump supporters, but nothing the Boy Scouts couldn’t handle. Anyone with 2 IQ points to rub together should have assumed he would make it all about him. The Boy Scouts let our president tell kids America is a nightmare place to live and boo our last president, this is beyond shameful.

    I may not be a popular guy with my sister in law if she pushes me for my two cents, I will mentally note to remind myself to try and change the subject if it comes up.

  8. CSK says:

    Well, this is interesting. According to his spokesperson, Tillerson is taking a “short vacation'” from the State Department.

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: So have the rest of trump admin, they just left their bodies behind.

  10. CSK says:


    It will be amusing when he’s left with no one but Ivanka and Jared.

  11. Tyrell says:

    @Inhuman99: Maybe it was the venue, but the scouts there seemed to really enjoy the speech. I wouldn’t come down too hard on them.
    Each individual scout troop has a lot of autonomy and freedom.
    A lot of people and sponsors (churches) have left the BSA for other organizations. The BSA leadership has not made wise decisions over the last few years.

  12. Joe says:


    Tillerson is taking a “short vacation’” from the State Department.

    An editorial in today’s NYTimes made this – perhaps not coincidental – observation:

    There was a small detail of the president’s speech that would be easy to miss amid all the bluster. At one point, Mr. Trump called up several of his cabinet members who were boy scouts to stand behind him. Notably absent, even though Boy Scouts of America Facebook posts confirmed his attendance at the jamboree, was the member of his cabinet most intimately connected to Scouting: Mr. Tillerson.

    I don’t know for certain whether anything can be read into Mr. Trump’s omission or Mr. Tillerson’s absence. But I do wonder if, in a time of encroaching breaches of cultural norms and social cohesion, it was a quiet statement consciously made by a man who truly understands what Scouting is all about.

    Perhaps Trump’s address to the Boy Scouts was the bridge too far for Mr. Tillerson.

  13. CSK says:


    Could be. There are some things that are impossible to stomach.

  14. Paul Hooson says:

    Classic Donald Trump. He attends the Boy Scout Jamboree to brag about himself and then tells a heartwarming story about one of his rich friends selling his business to buy a sex yacht. Another Trump masterwork…

  15. Jen says:

    @CSK: Wait, what? How does one take a “short vacation” FROM a cabinet post?

    Honest question, I don’t think he has a deputy yet…who the heck is running State?

  16. SC_Birdflyte says:


  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jen: The birds, probably pigeons.

  18. CSK says:


    I know. I’ve never seen anything like this, nor have any of us.

    Tillerson’s senior aide denies that his boss is thinking of bailing, but given that Tillerson apparently can’t bear to be on the same stage with Trump…

  19. MarkedMan says:

    Yeah, leering to boy scouts about his friend’s sex yacht. And the Boy Scouts said they were too moral to let gay members in. Yet the leadership hasn’t spoken a word about this because he’s their guy. Republican morality. Evangelical morality. Boy Scout leadership morality. It was all just phony.

  20. Franklin says:


    The BSA leadership has not made wise decisions over the last few years.

    Oh? Care to share what decisions were not wise?

  21. de stijl says:

    Imagine that Obama had given such a vainglorious speech to that audience…

    Imagine the outcry…

    Imagine the descriptions of said speech…

    Michelle Obama was characterized as Stalin incarnate for trying to get healthier food in school lunch programs and encouraging physical exercise.

  22. CSK says:

    Just an aside here: Scaramucci has made clear his intent to fire all the leakers. What happens when he discovers that Jared is one of the biggest ones?

    One thing for certain–if The Mooch carries through, the WH is gonna be a ghost town.

  23. al-Ameda says:


    Maybe it was the venue, but the scouts there seemed to really enjoy the speech. I wouldn’t come down too hard on them.

    Well heck yeah, it’s not surprising that a crowd of teenage boys would enjoy a speech by a 70 year old who stopped ‘growing up’ after his 15th birthday.

  24. Blue Galangal says:

    Somehow being missed in all this is his extolling Levittown, and Levitt – sure, the country’s first model for suburbia… and not coincidentally, its first model for a racially exclusionary suburbia. Levittown barred blacks from owning homes. The property deeds included a racial segregation clause, and I believe it was still covenanted well into the 1960s. When I read the transcript, that was the first thing that stood out for me, especially given his and his father’s history with exclusionary housing policies. No doubt Levitt was a hero to the Trump family for refusing to integrate Levittown.

  25. Tyrell says:

    @de stijl: Some of that food looked like Stalin and tasted like it came from the Stalin era. Talk about filling the garbage cans to the brim.

  26. the Q says:

    “That’s right, 62 million Americans voted to have an impulsive preening, lying, inconsiderate teenage boy as their president”

    And all because we Dems ran the most unpopular, disliked, untrusted candidate in our history who manipulated the process to serve her ambitions…..can’t separate the two, I’m sorry.

    Just remember that outcome neo-libs when the next DLC, centrist corporatist sell out runs (can you say Terry McAwful from Virginia or Kamala Useless from CA) and loses before you blame the truly liberal wing of the Party for not fully supporting our McAwful candidate.

    Still haven’t heard a peep from the Dem leaders on how THEY will fix some obvious flaws in Ocare.

    When the lead person in charge of setting up the network exchanges then leaves the Obama admin to work as the lead lobbyist for the Hospital Chains of America, you know we got problems.

  27. de stijl says:


    My gods, you’re an idiot.

    Isn’t there a Mayberry RFD or a Leave It To Beaver marathon you should be watching? .

    Did you major in Missing The Point?

  28. the Q says:

    A follow-up clarification……Mary Tavenner former Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) under Obama, left to become CEO and President of the lobbying group America’s Health Insurance Plan (AHIP) which is made up of the largest healthcare providers.

    So she left the position of setting up the rules governing HMOs to working for those very same HMOs.

    And you wonder why Ocare can be such a clusterpuck?

  29. de stijl says:

    @the Q:

    Are you saying that regulatory capture is a new thing?

    That this has never happened before?

    You are “a Democrat” like I am “a Christian” – a faith that I abandoned 30 years ago.

  30. Matt says:

    I am perma caught in the spam filter most of the time when I attempt to post…

  31. al-Alameda says:

    @the Q:
    Thanks for being a part of the thinking that got Trump installed as president.