October 22, 2012

On My Honor: Looking at Romney, Ryan and the Boy Scouts

Troop leaders at both events told KSL News the Romney campaign contacted them and asked for Boy Scouts to be on hand. BSA policy, however, prohibits Scouts from participating in political activities.

The policy says uniformed members and leaders may participate in flag ceremonies at political events and may lead the Pledge of Allegiance, but they should retire after the ceremony and not remain in a conspicuous location where viewers might construe their presence as an endorsement or symbol of support.

from: Greeting Romney at airport was violation of Boy Scout policy (KSL.com)

Even before the Boy Scouts were forced last week to publicly open up internal records regarding sexual abuse, the Scouts had become a cultural lightening rod over the continued policy to exclude gays. With complaints from all quarters about the fuzziness of Campaign ’12, and Mitt Romney toggling back-and-forth between more conservative and moderate views, weighing in on the crisis besetting the Boy Scout movement would represent a true act of moral leadership.

As the NYT noted this week, several of Romney’s children were Eagle Scouts, and the Mormon church has also enjoyed a close involvement and connection with the BSA. As well, Scouts have consistently been in attendance at Romney and Ryan campaign functions, the campaign having specifically soliciting their presence for photo ops. (The solicitation has been so direct, in fact, the Salt Lake City news site called out Romney and Ryan for violating the BSA code prohibiting these photo ops and even the perception of political endorsement.

Paul Ryan greeting Boy Scouts
Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan is greeted by Provo Boy Scout Troop 720 upon arrival in Provo Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012. (Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Scouts Greeting Romney 9 18 12
Mitt Romney greets Boy Scouts from Salt Lake City Troop 315 as he arrives in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

The specific events in question include tarmac photo ops on September 5th with Paul Ryan in Provo and September 18th involving Romney in Salt Lake City. The Ryan event drew the most attention for exploitation, however, the scouts not only taking photos with the candidate but then entertaining individual interviews with the media over the wonder of the experience,  the troop having been excused from school for the opportunity.

Scouts Interviewed Ryan visit 9 5 12

Media interview Provo Boy Scout Troop 720 members after they greeted Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan in Provo on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Scouts Interviewed Ryan visit 9 5 12

Media interview Provo Boy Scout Troop 720 members after they greeted Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan in Provo Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Far beyond these tarmac photo ops, however, Scouts have not only been drawn to the Romney ticket but have provided one of the campaign’s distinct visual accents as you can see in these representative images via Instagram, the first by Emily Friedman, taken in Florida (from the same event, I believe, as the photo leading the post by Justin Sullivan), and the second, taken in Denver, by Charles Dharapak:


Dharapak Scouts Romney Rally Denver

Of course, the association of the Boy Scouts to goodness has so worked its way into our culture as to permeate our language. Romney, in fact, has often been referred to as “a Boy Scout,” meaning someone so adherent to pure and upstanding behavior he would never think of even bending a golden rule. With this venerable institution emanating this much controversy and the Scouts being a living icon of what the Romney-Ryan campaign imagines itself all about, the troubles call out for a meaningful conversation about mores, and the deep crosscurrent of values in the American melting pot.

At the same time, with the two candidates engaged in a contest of rope-a-dope around a narrow set of issues that have obviously been focus-grouped to death,  for Romney to acknowledge the issues besetting the Scouts right now might provide the electorate with some assurance. It would tell us, at least, that he lives in the real world.

(photo 1: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images. caption: Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has his photo taken with Boy Scouts during a campaign rally on October 6, 2012 in Apopka, Florida. Mitt Romney is campaigning in Florida after a visit to the state of Virginia yesterday.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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