Top of the Ticket Political commentary from David Horsey

Trump subjects Boy Scouts to a political rant that demeans the presidency

At a campaign-style rally in Ohio on Tuesday night, President Trump insisted that, except for “the late, great Abraham Lincoln,” he could easily act “more presidential” than any president in history. Just the day before, however, Trump demonstrated how utterly, odiously unpresidential he truly is.

On Monday, Trump turned an address to thousands of Boy Scouts at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia into a mean-spirited, boastful, bullying political speech that failed to live up to any of the values to which Boy Scouts aspire. He described the nation’s capital as “a sewer.” He took a gratuitous swipe at his predecessor, President Obama, and mocked his opponent in the last election, Hillary Clinton, smiling in approval as some of the Scouts booed the two Democrats. He bragged, yet again, about his electoral victory and mindlessly thanked the youthful Scouts for their votes.

Three members of his Cabinet stood with him on the stage — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. They were at the event because each had once been involved in Scouting, but, as Trump flung his insults and puffed himself up, they grinned stupidly, looking less like old Eagle Scouts than like the Three Stooges.

Price’s smile wore thin when Trump joked acidly that he might fire him if he failed to shepherd an Obamacare repeal through Congress. This came after a tirade about healthcare, a subject about which Trump has shown near complete ignorance.

Attempting to get back to the reason he was invited to speak to the Scouts, Trump began to list the virtues expressed in the venerable Scout Law, but he couldn’t resist another veiled jab. “As the Scout Law says, a Scout is trustworthy, loyal — we could use some more loyalty, I will tell you that,” Trump said. No one doubted that the president was referring to Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, who has been the target of Trump’s ire ever since Sessions followed the law and recused himself from involvement with the Justice Department’s investigation into links between Russia and the Trump campaign.

A normal president — a presidential president — would have taken the occasion as a chance to inspire the young men in his audience, but, for Trump, it was just one more stump speech in a perpetual campaign to firm up his political base, another chance to boast while denigrating his opponents and underlings. This man is an appalling example for our country’s young people, just as many an American parent predicted after his disgusting remarks about sexually assaulting women were revealed last fall in the “Access Hollywood” video.

And, when Trump egotistically says how easy it is to act presidential, he debases an office that has been instilled with prestige by a long list of great presidents reaching back to George Washington. Trump has no idea how to be presidential. He treats the White House like a branch of the family business. In the style of a Mafia don, he expects Cabinet officials and lawmakers to put loyalty to him above respect for the law and the Constitution. His tweets and most of his unscripted public statements are undignified, untutored and frequently unhinged.

Trump is a cruel clown and a cunning con man. He is no Boy Scout.

David.Horsey@latimes.com

Follow me at @davidhorsey on Twitter

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