"His enemies are America’s enemies": Trump is getting help preparing his revenge list

Expect Donald Trump to go scorched earth this time around

By Heather Digby Parton


Published April 8, 2024 9:02AM (EDT)

 (Getty/Zach Gibson)
(Getty/Zach Gibson)

Are you better off than you were four years ago?

That question is circulating on social media and cable news every day now in response to the Trump campaign foolishly asking it, apparently expecting that everyone is mathematically illiterate and won't look back to the spring of 2020 when thousands of people were dying in the COVID pandemic. You'd think the last thing they'd want anyone to remember is Donald Trump appearing on television every day yelling at reporters and telling people to take snake oil cures or inject disinfectant. It was a nightmare from which the country has not yet fully recovered and his abominable performance during that horrific crisis marked the worst days of his presidency. You'll remember that he was careening madly from day to day, completely out of his depth, making everyone even more frightened and nervous than they already were.

We know from reporting in real time, and later from books and interviews, that Trump was really only concerned about how the pandemic was going to affect his reelection campaign and as a result he tried various PR approaches, from denying it was happening to demanding that we stop testing because it was making "his numbers" look bad to declaring that less than a hundred thousand deaths from the virus would be a big win. (The American death toll stands at well over a million.) One of the more inane attempts to shape the narrative was when he tried to adopt the mantle of "wartime president" to rally the country around the commander-in-chief and send him to a second term by acclamation. As Bob Cesca wrote for Salon at the time:

As of the past several days, Trump's been marketing COVID-19 as an "invisible enemy." He can't stop repeating the bellicose platitude that America is at war against the virus, even though he spent the first two months of this catastrophe telling us it was no big deal. 

Yet during the Sunday edition of the Trump Show, the president said, "In a true sense we're at war." On top of not understanding the definition of "war" or "true," Trump is also struggling to present himself with a patina of unity and cooperation (which he and his people routinely contradict with obnoxious cracks and tweets about his political opponents), while conspicuously thanking "first responders," as in the days and weeks following 9/11.

Someone even wrote some inspiring words for Trump to say about it:

Every generation of Americans has been called to make shared sacrifices for the good of the nation. ... Now it's our time. We must sacrifice together, because we are all in this together, and we will come through together. It's the invisible enemy. That's always the toughest enemy, the invisible enemy.

No one bought that line because it was clear that he was in over his head. Once Trump made the most infamous gaffe of his presidency — suggesting to scientists that perhaps humans could inject or ingest disinfectant to kill the virus — he stopped appearing at the daily White House briefing. But despite the fact that he loves to fatuously portray himself as the "peace president," he clearly liked the idea of being a wartime leader and thought it would be useful to his campaign. The only war he's ever been interested in waging, however, is the culture war.

At the height of the pandemic, Trump launched an all out attack on former president Barack Obama with a convoluted conspiracy theory he called "Obamagate" (original as always). It had something to do with the Russia investigation, which nobody could ever figure out. Trump demanded that Obama be jailed for his alleged crimes. He even had his attorney general, Bill Barr, assign U.S. Attorney John Bash to look into the matter. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., agreed to hold hearings on the Senate Judiciary Committee, although he didn't follow Trump's orders to subpoena Obama to appear. Nothing ever came of it because it was nonsense but it did distract for a time from Trump's miserable failure to lead the country through the pandemic. 

Recall that he also launched a series of assaults on blue states demanding that governors would have to "negotiate" for aid by giving up sanctuary cities. As I wrote at the time:

He and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell even cooked up a plan to deny pandemic aid to liberal-leaning states, literally calling it "No Blue State Bailouts." Republican governors are now following his lead and doing the same with the Democratic mayors of major cities. After years and years of bellowing about "local control," they are now overruling mayors' stay-at-home orders in an effort to force people back to work.

This wasn't entirely new. He'd been hostile to sending aid to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria and California for its devastating wildfires, but he really cranked it up in advance of his re-election effort in 2020. Essentially, Trump declared war on his political opponents in 2020. It wasn't successful for him at the time but that's not stopping him from giving it another go — and this time it's scorched earth.

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Over the weekend, Trump shared a video by Tom Klingenstein, a very wealthy financier and the chairman of the conservative Claremont Institute. In 2021, Klingenstein took up the banner when Trump went into exile at Mar-a-Lago and started a SuperPac to fight what he calls the “Woke regime.” He characterizes it as a cold civil war in which the so-called woke regime is winning because the right is too afraid to fight. 

Until now, his work has mostly been focused on the idea itself but now he's taken it to a new level, presenting Donald Trump as the only man who can lead us with a piece he calls "Trump's Virtues." The former president shared it on Truth Social to a rapturous reception. Leni Riefenstahl wouldn't be impressed with the aesthetics but her subject would certainly admire the message. Here is a small sample:

We shouldn’t much care whether our commander-in-chief is a real conservative, whether he is a role model for children or says lots of silly things, or whether he is modest or dignified. What we should care about is whether he knows we are in a war, knows who the enemy is, and knows how to win. Trump does.


His policies are important, but not as important as the rest of him. Trump grasps the essential things. He understands that the group quota regime is evil and will not stop until it destroys America. He is a fighter—bold, brave, and decisive—who has confidence in himself and his country.


His enemies hate him with an indescribable fierceness. “Another Hitler,” they say, “elect him and he will be a dictator.” We should take this hysteria as reason for hope. The America-haters rightly fear that he and his party are on the threshold of a successful counterrevolution.


Trump hates his enemies every bit as much as they hate him. His enemies are America’s enemies.

Those enemies are everyone who doesn't support Trump and they must be destroyed.

The man who made that video surely believes all this and Trump's followers appear to love the message and are inspired by it. The rest of us are simply left stunned by the idea that any of this could possibly be defined as "virtuous."  

By Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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