President Donald Trump, facing an energetic crowd of tens of thousands of people, vowed Monday to steer clear of politics in his address at the Boy Scouts of America Jamboree in West Virginia.
“Tonight, we put aside all of the policy fights in Washington, D.C., you’ve been hearing about with the fake news and all of that,” Trump said, pledging to focus his remarks instead on success. “Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts?”
Story Continued Below
Then Trump talked about politics — invoking his predecessor, Barack Obama, his general election opponent, Hillary Clinton, and a stalled health care bill in a meandering address. The speech culminated with Trump inviting members of his Cabinet on stage and recounting “that incredible night” he was elected president in November, with play-by-play commentary.
“By the way, just a question: Did President Obama ever come to a jamboree?” Trump asked at one point. “The answer is no, but we’ll be back.”
Obama did not appear at the jamboree in person but did address it by video in 2010.
For all intents and purposes, Monday’s speech was the president’s warm-up act for Tuesday’s campaign-style rally in Youngstown, Ohio. Aside from two foreign trips, Trump over the past few weeks has spent most of his time in Washington, where sprawling investigations into Russia’s role in the 2016 campaign continue to haunt him. And after six months in office, he has no major legislative achievement to tout.
The president referred to Washington as a “cesspool” and a “sewer,” telling the roaring crowd in Glen Jean what was clearly evident by the end of the night: “I’d much rather be with you. That I can tell you.”
But Trump faces a difficult reality, as the Senate is expected to hold a procedural vote Tuesday to debate health care legislation to either undo parts of Obamacare or repeal and replace Obama’s signature legislative achievement. That vote, however, seems likely to fail.
Trump singled out Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who joined him on stage and told reporters during the flight to West Virginia that Trump has put in “the greatest amount of involvement by any president that I have ever witnessed with members of Congress one on one,” an effort that would make it difficult for the White House to distance itself from Congress should the vote fail.
“Hopefully he’s going to get the votes tomorrow to start our path toward killing this horrible thing known as Obamacare that’s really hurting us,” Trump said during his speech putting the onus on Price. “By the way, you gonna get the votes? He better get ‘em. He better get ‘em.”
If not, Trump warned, “I’ll say, ‘Tom, you’re fired.’” The president appeared to be joking with Price but added that “he better get” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and other skeptical Senate Republicans to vote favorably. “It’s time,” he said, urging the Republican caucus to finally make good on its pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Trump, a political novice who thrived on massive crowds and bombastic rhetoric as a candidate, was true to form Monday. He bashed his favorite target, the so-called fake news media he swore wouldn’t show the crowd size and told a man in the crowd he loved him — “he, he, he, he,” Trump said, emphasizing that it was, indeed, a man.
He also singled out Clinton for failing to campaign enough in Michigan, raved about how “red” the Election Day map was as he piled up victories state by state, promised Americans would say “Merry Christmas” again and sought to inspire the scouts with a tale about the importance of momentum with a cautionary tale that could apply to Senate Republicans should they leave for their delayed recess without acting on Obamacare.
In fact, Trump seemed to suggest Republicans in Washington could learn a thing or two from Boy Scouts, whom he praised for their loyalty and trustworthiness.
“We could use more loyalty,” Trump said bluntly. “I will tell you that.”