Republicans Silent on Trump's Boy Scout Speech, but Slammed Obama for a Back-to-School Address

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President Donald Trump waves after delivering remarks at the 2017 National Scout Jamboree in Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve, West Virginia, July 24. Trump’s speech broke from a long tradition of presidents promoting ideals such as serving other people. Carlos Barria/Reuters

President Donald Trump addressed a massive gathering of Boy Scouts Monday and made it all about himself—a massive breach of custom—while pushing for his political agenda. Republicans were mostly silent on the issue, a curious development considering the GOP slammed former President Barack Obama for telling kids to work hard and persevere in a 2009 back-to-school speech.

Trump's speech at the National Scout Jamboree was widely considered to be wholly inappropriate, breaking from a long tradition of presidents addressing the youngsters and promoting ideals such as serving other people. Trump started his speech by saying, "Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I'm in front of the Boy Scouts?"—then proceeded to rant about politics in front of 40,000 Boy Scouts.

He told Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, standing near him, that he better get votes for a health care bill, otherwise, "I'll say, 'Tom, you're fired.' I'll get somebody." Among many, many other comments about his win on Election Day, Trump said, "But do you remember that incredible night with the maps and the Republicans are red and the Democrats are blue, and that map was so red, it was unbelievable, and they didn't know what to say?" He told the scouts, "You're going to be saying 'Merry Christmas' again, folks." He of course attacked the "fake news media" and Obama.

Trump even claimed the many people in the crowd agreed with one of his slogans, saying the Boy Scouts "believe in putting America First." (He also told the gathering of teens a rambling story about a cocktail party in New York that was about momentum—maybe?) The left was quick to criticize the president for using the Boy Scouts as a political tool—for their part the group stressed after the speech that they do not endorse any "position, product, service, political candidate or philosophy"—with some liberals even saying Trump made the event look like a Hitler Youth rally. But the right was relatively silent.

But as Matt Gertz of the left-wing group Media Matters for America pointed out on Twitter, the right-wing media and conservative figures were happy to jump all over Obama for his 2009 back-to-school speech that was optional for students and promoted ideas such as the importance of staying in school and listening to teachers.

"I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself," Obama told students. "Every single one of you has something that you're good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That's the opportunity an education can provide." Republicans were not happy with that message.

"As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology," said Jim Greer, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. "It seems very close to indoctrination," said Fox News Sean Hannity, who is now Trump's No. 1 fan on television. Fox Nation suggested keeping kids home from school. Then-Oklahoma Senator Steve Russell, a Republican who now serves in the House of Representatives, said Obama was seemingly promoting himself by telling kids to work hard in school. "As far as I'm concerned this is not civics education—it gives the appearance of creating a cult of personality," Russell said at the time.