In the age of Trump, no tradition is safe

Former White House photographer Pete Souza is still trolling Donald Trump.

This time, Souza posted an image on his Instagram account after Trump’s attempt to turn the Boy Scout Jamboree into a political rally.

The president, in keeping with tradition, appeared at the largest gathering of Boy Scouts. And in destroying tradition, proceeded to ignore the unstated policy of staying away from partisan politics when talking to the kids, even encourage the booing of a former president.

Writing on The Atlantic today, senior editor Yoni Appelbaum recalled his 1993 Scout Jamboree and says Trump crossed a line.

“The Boy Scouts of America must not … involve Scouting in political matters,” the group’s Rules and Regulations plainly state. But a presidential visit—Clinton would come to the next Jamboree, in 1997—was about the place that scouting occupied in the civic fabric of the nation. It wasn’t about politics. Or at least, it wasn’t supposed to be.

That’s the line that Trump crossed on Monday night, the same one he crossed on the Ford, and at the CIA, and at the Al Smith dinner. It’s the interjection of partisan politics into a space where it doesn’t belong. And every time he does it, every time he goes before some nonpartisan group and speaks to its members as if they had come to attend a campaign rally, a little more of our shared civic culture gets chipped away. He’s not the first to erode such lines, but he stands apart for his persistent disregard.

Perhaps Trump did it out of ignorance. Ten members of his cabinet are former Scouts, including Rex Tillerson, a one-time president of the group. But Trump himself never belonged, never recited the Scout Law, never pledged to “help other people at all times.”

His closest prior association with the group appears to have come in 1989, when his charitable foundation made the smallest donation it ever gave—$7—to the Boy Scouts of America, as David Fahrenthold has reported. His son, Donald Trump Jr., turned 11 that year; $7 was then the cost of registering a new Scout.

In a statement later, the Boy Scouts tried to soothe critics who objected to the political rally.

“The Boy Scouts of America is wholly non-partisan and does not promote any one position, product, service, political candidate or philosophy. The invitation for the sitting U.S. President to visit the National Jamboree is a long-standing tradition and is in no way an endorsement of any political party or specific policies,” the organization said in a Monday night statement.

“The sitting U.S. President serves as the BSA’s honorary president. It is our long-standing custom to invite the U.S. President to the National Jamboree.”