Trump’s Eagle Scouts: On the split between Rick Perry and Rex Tillerson on gays in Scouting

Governor Rick Perry answers questions during an interview at the Governor's Mansion on Wednesday, December 17, 2014. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Governor Rick Perry answers questions during an interview at the Governor’s Mansion on Wednesday, December 17, 2014. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Good morning Austin:

I think it’s fair to say that President-elect Donald Trump is no Boy Scout.

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In fact, thanks to the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold, we know that the PEOTUS apparently covered his son’s $7 registration fee for the BSA in 1989 with Trump Foundation money, though, who knows, maybe that comes under the heading a penny saved is a penny earned.

It is likewise hard to imagine a Norman Rockwell image of Trump helping an old lady cross Fifth Avenue without stopping to shoot someone to test his belief that he could do so without losing a single vote.

Nonetheless, the two Texans that Trump has chosen for his Cabinet – ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson and former Gov Rick Perry – are both Eagle Scouts for whom the Boy Scouts of America have continued to be a central devotion of their lives.

But, as the confirmation hearings for the two Eagle Scouts approaches – Tillerson this Wednesday and Perry probably a week from Thursday – it is worth noting that Tillerson and Perry were diametrically opposed to one another on the central issue facing the Boy Scouts in recent years – how to contend with homosexuality.

With that in mind, it is well worth watching these two videos in which each of the men, within a month of one another in the spring of 2013,  address the question that was then before the BSA – whether to allow openly gay young men to participate in Scouting.

The first is an interview with Perry by Tony Perkins, head of the Christian conservative Family Research Council on May 8, 2013, in which, as it is described, You will learn what you can do to preserve Scouting as its founders envisioned it – as a resource for young men to develop in morally, mentally, and physically healthy ways, free to be boys and teens without the invasion of cultural controversies.

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The second are remarks Tillerson, who served as president of the BSA from 2010 to 2012, delivered to the closing general session of the BSA’s National Annual Meeting in June 2013 at which they had voted to change their policy on gay Scouts.

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The background of the Perry video is, per FRC, as follows:

 On Sunday, May 5, 2013, FRC hosted a special webcast, “Stand with Scouts Sunday.” You will learn what you can do to preserve Scouting as its founders envisioned it – as a resource for young men to develop in morally, mentally, and physically healthy ways, free to be boys and teens without the invasion of cultural controversies.

Speakers included:

Tony Perkins, President, Family Research Council
John Stemberger, President, OnMyHonor.net
Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas)
Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.)
Pastor Robert Hall, Calvary Chapel Rio Rancho
Zina Hackworth, Moms of Boy Scouts

In the voice-over introduction to the FRC’s Stand with Scouts Sunday Simulcast, we are told that the BSA is “one of the last non-religious institutions that has not yielded to political correctness.”

Under pressure from corporate elites and homosexual activists, the leadership of the Boy Scout is proposing a change regarding open homosexuality in the Scouts. It’s a change that would introduce what Scouts themselves call open and avowed homosexuality into Scouting. It would change Scouting forever. The impact of the change would not be limited to the Boy Scouts. It will dramatically change the culture and moral landscape of America.

From Perry:

Scouting for over  a century now has been the bedrock of values and traditions and developer of men and it’s the kind of young men by and large that you want knocking on your door asking your daughter out on a date or for that matter standing beside you if you’re in a fight  in the military or whether or not you’re trying to make a dollar in the free market capitalist economic system that  we have in this country.

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The spiritual side of growing up its very important. I know there are those in the world who would tear that apart, but the fact is this is private organization. Their values and principles have worked for a century now. For pop culture to come in and try to tear that up to be the flavor of the month so to speak and to tear up one of the great organizations that have helped millions of young men and helped them to become men and to be great fathers, frankly, that is no  appropriate and frankly I hope that the American people will stand up and say, `Not on my watch.’

If we change and become more like pop culture, young men will not be as well served, America will not be as well served and the Boy Scouts will be set on a decline that will not serve this country well as we go into the future.

In 2008, Perry wrote a book, On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For.

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During Perry’s first run for president, Justin Elliott in The New Republic, on Sept. 14, 2011, explained why he thought the book was a must-read for people wanting to understand where the Republican candidate was coming from.

His real political passion is he protection of traditional American institutions against elitist attacks. It’s no accident that even though Perry’s campaign is supposed to be founded on his economic record as governor of Texas, he’s been having trouble staying on message.

In making his book-length indictment, Perry paints with a startlingly wide brush. “Student campus unrest, rejection of authority, the ‘self-esteem’ movement, moral relativism, and the demands of secularists all gradually fused into a series of attacks on American institutions,” he writes in the book. We learn that he disdains “secular humanism,” the “self-esteem movement,” and youth sports leagues that don’t keep score. For good measure, he compares homosexuality to alcoholism, and supports corporal punishment of children.

Ultimately, for Perry, the Boy Scouts are the litmus test in adjudicating sides in this culture war. (Perry, it bears mentioning, is a proud Eagle Scout; he’s known to still wear his Eagle pin on the lapel of his suits.) As Perry tells it, the Scouts are at the center of two of the main fronts in the culture war: religion and homosexuality. The group has long barred participation by atheists or “avowed homosexuals.”

But it also becomes clear (to the reader of On My Honor, if not the author) that Perry’s fervor to protect traditional American culture—the reason he sees it as simultaneously fragile and central to the country’s fate—is motivated by his own nostalgia for an idealized childhood he can’t recover. Perry emphasizes that he learned to love the Scouting movement as a boy in the rural isolation of west Texas. There is poignancy here in his inability to distinguish between the personal and the political, the parochial and the historical. “Growing up in Paint Creek, I thought the things we were taught as Scouts—to do our best to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent—were pretty much what the Founding Fathers had intended for succeeding generations when they created our nation,” he writes.

If the focus on the Boy Scouts feels oddly dated, that’s because it is right now—and it was in 2008, too. The Boy Scouts have faced a number of anti-discrimination cases, but their heyday was in the 1990s. Boy Scouts of America vs. Dale, the case that upheld the Scouts’ no-gays-allowed policy, ended in a 5-4 Supreme Court decision in 2000. But Perry is insistent on placing the Boy Scouts in the context of a larger historical struggle within American society between traditionalists and “the forces of nihilism and self-centeredness.” “If we believe our technology, firepower, and educational attainment will save us from licentiousness, godlessness, and undisciplined living,” Perry writes, “we bet on a losing proposition according to the history of civilization (Rome, Greece, and Babylon, to name a few).”

Perry’s most explicit target in this fight is a familiar Republican Party bogeyman: the ACLU. The ACLU, mentioned over 100 times in On My Honor, is Perry’s favorite foil and he proceeds to reduce it to the caricature of cliche. (One sample: “Whether it is protecting the rights of pornographers, molesters, perverts, terrorists, garden-variety thugs, or those merely hostile to a belief in God, the ACLU is there to provide aid and comfort, in addition to a well-funded legal arsenal.”)

But for Perry the operative dividing line in the national culture war is between traditionalists and relativists, not Republicans and Democrats: party loyalty is secondary to ethical correctness. In that way it’s telling that long before they began sparring over Social Security, Perry and Romney butt heads over the Boy Scouts. When Romney, as head of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, barred the Boy Scouts from participating in the events, Perry seethed.

Tillerson is Perry’s equal in the ways that he was shaped by and remains devoted to the Boy Scouts and all Scouting represents.

From Steve Coll, author of Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power,  in December in The New Yorker.

Tillerson’s life has been shaped to a profound extent by two institutions: ExxonMobil and the Boy Scouts of America. He grew up in Texas, where his father was a modestly compensated administrator for the Scouts. Tillerson became an Eagle Scout. An engineering major at the University of Texas, in Austin, Tillerson joined ExxonMobil in 1975. He has never worked anywhere else. Of all the companies that were born out of the breakup of Standard Oil, Exxon is culturally the most direct descendant of John D. Rockefeller’s monopolistic giant, which was organized on principles of ruthless capitalism and Protestant faith. Exxon today is an unusually cloistered corporation that promotes virtually all of its top executives from within. Former executives I interviewed mentioned that as recently as the nineteen-seventies, it was not unusual to start company meetings with a prayer. When Tillerson finally won a competition for the top job, in 2004, he directed substantial time and charitable activity toward the Boy Scouts. In public appearances, he comes across as sophisticated, yet his life is rooted in environments that are fundamentally nostalgic for imagined midcentury virtues and for the days when burning fossil fuels did not threaten to trigger catastrophic climate change. Tillerson once listed his favorite book as “Atlas Shrugged,” Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel that has become a touchstone for libertarians and promoters of unbridled capitalism. Compared to the records of some of the other people around Trump, Tillerson’s is at least one of professional integrity; Exxon is a ruthless and unusually aggressive corporation, but it is also rule-bound, has built up a relatively strong safety record, and has avoided problems such as prosecutions under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, even though it operates in many countries that are rife with corruption.

When Tillerson’s name surfaced as a potential pick for secretary of state, Tony Perkins sounded the alarm.

Donald Trump put a lot of names in the pipeline to head the State Department, but few have fueled more controversy than ExxonMobil CEO and Chairman Rex Tillerson. The oil mogul, who’s spent his more than 40 years with the company, is one of the many names floated for the most-watched nomination of the new administration.

The Left, which doesn’t usually need a reason to oppose Trump’s choices, won’t find many here, since the ExxonMobil executive may be the greatest ally liberals have in the Cabinet for their abortion and LGBT agendas. That should be particularly alarming to conservatives, who’ve spent the last eight years watching the State Department lead the global parade for the slaughter of innocent unborn children and the intimidation of nations with natural views on marriage and sexuality. No sooner had Hillary Clinton taken over the State Department in 2009 than the White House ordered her to use the agency as a club to beat other nations into submission on sensitive culture issues — a tradition that successor John Kerry has been all too eager to continue.

Now, after two terms of exporting radical social policy, Americans could finally see the light at the end of the Obama administration tunnel. To hear that Donald Trump may be appointing a man who not only led the charge to open the Boy Scouts to gay troop leaders but whose company directly gives to Planned Parenthood is upsetting at best. FRC knows Tillerson all too well, having worked for years to put the brakes on his reckless agenda for a scouting organization that was already dealing with staggering numbers of sexual abuse cases. Unfortunately, the BSA, under Tillerson, ultimately caved to the pressure of the far-Left, irreparably splitting the Scouts and destroying a proud and honorable American tradition. Under his chairmanship, ExxonMobil’s score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate “Equality” Index has also skyrocketed to 87 percent. Still, Trump calls Rex a “world class player and dealmaker,” but if these are the kinds of deals Tillerson makes — sending dollars to an abortion business that’s just been referred for criminal prosecution and risking the well-being of young boys under his charge in an attempt to placate radical homosexual activists — then who knows what sort of “diplomacy” he would champion at DOS

Here is a post from Boy Scouting Magazine on June 6, 2013 about the Tillerson video below.

“So we’ve made the decision. We’re going to change,” says Rex Tillerson. “Now what?”

Less than 24 hours after the volunteer delegates voted to change the BSA’s membership policy for youth, Tillerson addressed a large room full of Scouting volunteers and professionals at the closing general session of the BSA’s National Annual Meeting.

In a powerful, heartfelt speech, Tillerson made his message clear: Change is inevitable, but “The Main Thing,” which is to serve more youth in Scouting, hasn’t changed. With that in mind, he reasoned, it’s time for all of us unite toward this common goal.

Tillerson, immediate past president of the Boy Scouts of America and a 2010 Silver Buffalo recipient, knows something about making big decisions and dealing with change. When he’s not serving as a Scouting volunteer, he’s the chairman, president, and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp., one of the world’s largest companies.

In 1999, Tillerson worked for Exxon when it merged with Mobil—definitely a big change for both companies.

Take 10 minutes to watch the video below and listen to Tillerson’s message. Then, share it with the members of your Scouting family.

Putting aside the merits of his argument, this is a very impressive performance and one that suggests to me that he will handle the senators considering his nomination – and who are likely to be more exercised over this relationship with Vladimir Putin than his role in changing how the Scouts contend with homosexuality – with aplomb.

From a very good piece this week by Matt Viser of the Boston Globe:

WASHINGTON — Rex Tillerson commanded the stage and addressed a crowd of thousands of national Boy Scout delegates who were very much on edge, having just made a deeply divisive decision.

Some were angry, others brought to tears. Some pledged to never accept the change that Tillerson, a national leader of the organization, had helped engineer: allowing gays into the Scouts.

Tillerson, an Eagle Scout himself and a longtime booster of the organization, roamed the stage and spoke, unscripted, about the need to accept societal change even while honoring cherished traditions.

“What went on here was a remarkable thing,” Tillerson said, in a deep-voiced Southern drawl. “We’ve got to listen to people. We’ve got to listen to their concerns, we’ve got to listen to their fears. We can’t be dismissive of them.”

This is what secretary of state nominee Tillerson’s art of diplomacy looks like. In this case, during a 2013 gathering in Texas, he took on one of the most fraught issues ever faced by an organization that he deeply loves.

As the most recent president of the Boy Scouts, he had just helped lead the century-old organization into endorsing a historic change. And then he had to help calm the tempest that followed.

The years-long debate over allowing gay Scouts — a seismic shift the group called, euphemistically, the debate over “membership standards” — left deep fissures. Tillerson’s role during that period provides insights into his diplomatic instincts, his pragmatism, and his willingness to accept change.

It illustrated as well how he approached thorny questions without a clear answer — the kind secretaries of state often encounter — and showcased a leadership style centered on consensus building, putting people at ease by absorbing their thoughts before rendering his own judgment.

But while he recognized the need for the change, several close observers at the time said, he seemed to do it more to help the organization survive than out of a moral sense about gay rights. Even while overseeing shifts at the Scouts, the company he’s run since 2006 — Exxon Mobil — maintained policies that were considered far more discriminatory against gays than other Fortune 500 companies.

Those who have worked with him up close say that his style can be more deferential than one might expect of the chief executive of a vast multinational oil company. He doesn’t suck up all the attention in a room, he soaks it in.

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Two years after Tillerson’s tenure as Scouts president, Bob Gates took over. As defense secretary, Gates had overseen the dismantling of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that barred members of the military from being openly gay. Like Tillerson, he was a longtime Scouting advocate.

When he came on board, he oversaw the next change in its policy on gays: allowing openly gay leaders. The change was not as controversial as the first step had been, and Gates is said to have consulted with Tillerson.

Their bond over Scouting is something that would become vital later on. Gates became a consultant for Exxon, and, in December, he was meeting with Trump at a time when the new president-elect was trying to figure out whom to nominate as secretary of state.

Gates was the first one to bring Tillerson to Trump’s attention.

“If you want to understand Rex Tillerson, and it may be a corny thing to say,” Gates told The Washington Post in December, “but you’ve got to understand that he’s an Eagle Scout.”

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From a James Osborne story in the Dallas Morning News in September 2014: Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson an Eagle Scout to the core 

Despite increasing pressure from gay rights advocates, Exxon has refused to create a specific policy barring discrimination against gay employees, as many Fortune 500 companies have done. Nonetheless, Tillerson was instrumental in lobbying the Scouts’ board to accept openly gay youths, said John Hamre, president of the Washington think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies, of which Tillerson is a board member.

“I can’t get into the intimacy of these conversations. But he agonized over this. He prayed on it, and ultimately he came to the conclusion the only thing that can guide him here is what’s best for the young boys,” he said. “I think he became a key leader in helping the group come to a consensus.”

Tillerson’s connection to Scouting extends back before he was even born 62 years ago.

His parents met at Boy Scout camp as teenagers. His father, Bob, worked at the camp and met his mother, Patty, while she was visiting her brother; sparks flew over a sing-along.

After serving on a battleship during World War II, Bob returned to North Texas and eventually took a full-time job with the Scouts, a career that would span four decades.

As the family moved between Boy Scout offices in Wichita Falls, Stillwater, Okla., and Huntsville, Scouting was ever-present for Tillerson. As a child and into adolescence, he racked up not just merit badges but some of Scouting’s highest awards, designated for leadership abilities and dedication.

To this day, Tillerson lists his rank of Eagle Scout on his résumé. And he maintains a reputation in the business world for honesty and straightforwardness, traits some interpret as proof that despite his success and wealth, he remains a Boy Scout to his core.

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