President Donald Trump, speaking Tuesday at the Boy Scouts of America jamboree:
As the Scout Law says: ‘A Scout is trustworthy, loyal’ — we could use some more loyalty, I will tell you that.
Never mind that his group of boys is too young to vote, Trump thanked them for voting for him just the same. Their reputation for loyalty was apparently enough for Trump to show premature appreciation, as loyalty has been top of mind for the president for a very long time.
Recall Trump’s conversation with James Comey, when he demanded that the soon-to-be former FBI Director pledge his loyalty, only to have Comey promise honesty instead. Trump then asked for “honest loyalty,” which only makes sense, given that honesty comes after loyalty in the Scout Law.
It’s clear that Trump really likes loyalty – except that he doesn’t see it as a reciprocal arrangement.
Getting without giving
Trump is very good at demanding loyalty. But he’s not very good at giving it.
Look no further than Trump’s bizarre public defenestration of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In his noteworthy interview last week with The New York Times, Trump lamented that Sessions shouldn’t have recused himself from the Russian investigation. “If he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else.”
He then berated Sessions, via Tweets, being soft on Hillary Clinton and not prosecuting her. Never mind that Trump himself had said he had no intention of having his administration prosecute Clinton!
Sessions the first senator to endorse Donald Trump, was also the first attorney general to be publicly berated by his boss on Twitter. The president may not want to publicly fire another official connected to the Russian investigation, so he seems intent on bullying the attorney general until he quits.
That’s not loyalty. Indeed, there are many words to describe that approach, but none of them appear in the Scout Law.
Loyal, or yes men?
Trump apparently wants to shake up the West Wing by disposing of loyal followers, including Press Secretary Sean Spicer, in order to make room for yes men like Anthony Scaramucci, the new communications director. He’s promised to “fire everybody” who leaks to the press.
Scaramucci’s appointment was apparently the straw that broke Sean Spicer’s back. Spicer decided it would be wise to stay one step ahead of the looming “loyalty” purge. No one can blame him for deciding he’d had enough.
Every president wants a loyal team. But previous presidents procured loyalty by providing it. Neither George W. Bush nor Barack Obama would take to Twitter to humiliate a member of their own cabinet.
And yet no one is or should be surprised when Trump behaves this way. And that’s what makes true loyalty, not yes-man-ery, hard to come by in the Trump White House. The president shouldn’t be surprised that even Boy Scouts won’t put up with such behavior.
(Photo of Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and HHS Secretary Tom Price walking to Marine One to depart with President Donald Trump from the White House on July 24, 2017, to Beaver, West Virginia, where Trump spoke at the 2017 National Scout Jamboree, by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.)