Believe Trump’s Threats to Use the Presidency as His Personal Vengeance Machine
A second Trump administration won’t have the guardrails of the first, and the ex-president has repeatedly shown he’ll shamelessly abuse power whenever he feels like it.
Trumpanzees or velociraptors? I'm prepared to believe several steps backward down the evolutionary ladder for Trump supporters.
Published Nov. 14, 2023 4:45AM EST
“I’m really worried about a return of Donald Trump this time,” Frum said, “because this time, the velociraptors have figured out how to work the doorknobs.”
In recent weeks, two almost paradoxical developments have converged in the 2024 presidential race. First, Donald Trump is polling ahead of Joe Biden in the general election. And second, Trump has somehow raised the bar to previously unimaginable levels in terms of the violent and dehumanizing rhetoric he’s openly spouting on the campaign trail.
During a Veterans Day speech this past weekend, Trump threatened to “root out the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country.” He went on to note, “The threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous and grave than the threat from within.”
Trump’s definition of “vermin” is broad—basically encompassing anyone who opposes him (so if I end up in Gitmo, you’ll know why).
Trump also recently attacked the New York judge overseeing his civil fraud case and the attorney general who brought the case. And on Monday, he claimed that Department of Justice Special Counsel Jack Smith and others would be “in a mental institution” by the time his next term ends.
Keep in mind, these comments follow Trump’s threats to use the FBI and Department of Justice against his political adversaries, as well as specific threats to “go after” Joe Biden.
Likewise, they come on the heels of a report in The Washington Post stating that Trump and his allies are “drafting plans to potentially invoke the Insurrection Act on his first day in office…”
It’s time to be honest about two things that many Americans might not be ready to grapple with: 1) It’s entirely possible (maybe even likely) that Trump will be elected president and 2) He will actually do the things he has promised.
Now, it’s understandable why most of us would prefer not to confront these potential realities.
For one thing, Trump’s norm-busting rhetoric (“Lock her up,” “human scum,” “enemies of the people,” “I am your retribution,” et al) have long ago desensitized us.
But it’s important not to tune him out. That’s because his recent comments seem indicative of how he’d govern during a second term (when he wouldn’t have to worry about getting re-elected).
After Trump was first elected in 2016, there was at least a hope that the awesome responsibility of the presidency would civilize him. After all, he had been a New York Democrat for most of his life. That, of course, did not happen, and anyone thinking that Trump would govern responsibly during a second term isn’t just deluding themselves, they are ignoring the last seven years.
One way to rationalize ignoring Trump’s comments is to simply dismiss him as a clown engaging in hyperbole to excite the rubes.
While it’s true that Trump did not do all of the things he promised he would do during his first term, this should provide us with little comfort.
For one thing, after hinting he wouldn’t accept the election results if he were to lose in 2016 and 2020, he actually followed through on not accepting those results when he, in fact, lost.
What is more, Trump’s image of himself as a victim has dramatically increased over the last several years (first the Mueller report, then the two impeachments, and numerous indictments).
What’s probably most important to remember is that there were too many guardrails in place during Trump’s first term to prevent him from doing all of the things he really wanted to do.
He was surrounded by military leaders like Chief of Staff John Kelly, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley.
These were just a handful of the people in the Trump administration who would slow-walk his orders or otherwise attempt to mitigate any potential damage.
Even Trump’s own judicial appointees often stymied his efforts to accomplish his goals, including his attempt to overturn the 2020 election.
In other words, Trump did not fully implement his stated goals because, according to him, the “deep state” stopped him.
This time around, however, Trump will be unencumbered and better prepared.
Two years ago, conservative writer David Frum shared with me his concerns about a second Trump administration. “I’m really worried about a return of Donald Trump this time,” Frum said, “because this time, the velociraptors have figured out how to work the doorknobs.”
Frum was ahead of the curve. As Axios reports, “Hundreds of people are spending tens of millions of dollars to install a pre-vetted, pro-Trump army of up to 54,000 loyalists across government to rip off the restraints imposed on the previous 46 presidents.”
Trump and his team have dramatically better intel regarding institutional weaknesses now than they had back in 2017.
When Donald Trump says he’ll use the presidency as his personal vengeance machine, you should believe him.