I was only a Cub Scout for a short period of time in the 1950s. I never made it to Boy Scout. I did admire the kids I knew who ascended to Eagle Scout. It was clear from their uniforms: tan shirts and green sashes covered with merit badges, that they were high achievers. I was just not that disciplined as a kid. I preferred to play unsupervised in the street.
All that I can recall about Scouts was wearing a blue uniform and cap, going to a neighbor friend’s basement and reciting this pledge: “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”
The best thing about the uniform, was when I wore it to school. During the daily pledge of allegiance, I was authorized to salute the flag, as opposed to placing my hand over my heart. I thought that was pretty cool back in the day; which was before I had ever heard the word “nerd” spoken.
I forgot about my brief time in the Cub Scouts until recently, when I recalled some of the milestone events during President Trump’s tenure. If you recall, in year one he addressed the annual Boy Scout Jamboree in West Virginia and claimed that it was “the greatest speech that had ever been made to them.” It was a boast that the organization had to later deny when pressed.
At one point in his speech Trump asked the mass gathering of Scouts and Scoutmasters, “By the way, what do you think the chances are that this incredible, massive, record-setting crowd is going to be shown on television tonight? One percent or zero?” He followed that up with, “By the way, just a question, did President Obama ever come to a jamboree?” Surely it is insight like this that inspired him to compare himself favorably to Abraham Lincoln.
Although he was never a Boy Scout, what President Trump does have in common with the scouts is that he took a pledge too, actually an oath. His went like this: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Many accomplished American men took the Boy Scout pledge, including astronaut Buzz Aldrin, baseball slugger Hank Aaron, news anchor Walter Cronkite, film director Steven Spielberg and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
We all know that President Trump has nothing in common with these men of achievement and character. And, because there is little left for him to betray in the oath he swore to in 2017, he matches up best with guys like Charles Ponzi and Bernard Madoff, despite the fact that he has easily eclipsed these world-class grifters.
“On Tyranny,” author Timothy Snyder wrote, “To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true then all is spectacle.”
Snyder goes on to describe how truth dies in four modes: open hostility to verifiable reality, endless repetition of evidence-free mantras, magical thinking, and misplaced faith.
Think about it; first Trump fooled just enough people into believing he was a competent businessman, which all verifiable facts disprove. Now, four years later we’ve discovered that no American bank will advance him a loan because he is a five-alarm credit risk. And, now he is successfully fleecing hundreds of millions of hard-earned dollars from the same poor saps who faithfully voted for him.
These true believers are emptying their pockets on text- and email-command, accompanied by the repeated incantation that the 2020 election was rigged, stolen. Meanwhile, the reality is that he decisively lost by an electoral margin that he, himself, labeled as a landslide when he won by the same edge in 2016.
His supporters are so confused by his gaslighting that they actually believe (let this sink in) that their money is going to defend him against election fraud. In truth, their donations are going into Trump’s personal slush fund that he can use for debt service, golf fees, Mar-a-Lago renovations or food runs to McDonalds.
Ponzi and Madoff have nothing on Trump. He is the most prolific grifter in history, bar none.
He’s the greatest of all time.
Andrew Malekoff is a New York State licensed clinical social worker