"President Trump's Boy Scout Jamboree speech gave me the creeps, and I don't think I'm alone," writes John McLaughlin, a distinguished practitioner-in-residence at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, in a commentary published Thursday in The Washington Post.
McLaughlin, who served as deputy director of Central Intelligence and as acting CIA director under former President George W. Bush, says Trump's remarks—delivered Monday in front of a crowd of roughly 40,000 scouts at their annual jamboree gathering—were "full of derision toward others, self-obsession, political spin, and incoherent rambling about cocktail society and high finance in New York City."
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The real power of the American presidency lies in its ability to inspire—especially young people who are in awe of the office, its majesty, history and symbolism. There was no inspiration here, only mockery, spin, and manipulation.
The speech, says McLaughlin, represents a missed the opportunity—"a president speaking to a young audience of future voters has the power to reinforce the tenets of effective democracy," he writes. Instead, McLaughlin suggests, the president used the speech to undermine components of democracy. Trump disparaged the free press, insulted government workers and civil servants, and demonstrated an eagerness to continually insult a former president and his former election opponent, McLaughlin says.
The speech served as a wake-up call for Americans who have been "inured" to the president's behavior, McLaughlin concludes:
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To a degree, we adults have become accustomed to this sort of behavior—'Let Trump be Trump,' his supporters say. This was the first time we've seen him be Trump in front of a captive audience of children. ... In this sense, Trump may have done us a favor by making all of this new again—reminding us of what is neither presidential nor acceptable in the nation's leader.