Presidential historian Tim Naftali told CNN on Wednesday that living under President Donald Trump was like waking up to a giant “middle finger” every day — and that by the time his tenure is over, Americans will need a “collective shower.”
Naftali was responding to a question by host Brooke Baldwin about Trump’s ongoing attacks on Senator John McCain, who has been dead for six months. “Why do people feel so free, emboldened,” she asked, “to speak like this now?”
“We’re talking about a new national low,” Naftali responded. “There have been times in our history when our fellow Americans have done unspeakable things to each other, but what we’ve got now is an enabling climate where cyberbullies feel that somehow it’s okay. There are no social sanctions. There’s no stigma attached to being wretched in public.”
“Look, every president’s a human being, that means that every president’s flawed. But they understand that with the office comes the opportunity to remind people of their better angels,” Naftali continued. “This president consistently refuses to accept that he has a moral obligation and so he acts like a street fighter every day and sends the message to people that it’s okay to be a street fighter always.”
Baldwin admitted that she was becoming numb to Trump’s daily outrages, which Naftali said was perfectly normal.
“The new normal is for this ugliness to be publicly stated. It’s as if every day the president is putting up his middle finger to part of America –or at least one person in America– and we’ve gotten used to it,” he said. “When this period is over we’ll need to take a collective shower, because this cannot be the way that this country is evolving.”
“This is a moment when there are people who want to show their loyalty to Donald Trump by acting out, by basically acting like him,” Naftali continued. “The idea that our president should set as a tone this kind of mockery, and dislike, and hatred is something that I think the Founders would find abhorrent.”
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