Gen. Flynn Makes His Case
Surprise veep hopeful for Trump comes under fire from pro-life leaders, but answers all questions in LZ interview
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, floated as a trial balloon to be Donald Trump’s running mate, made his case on Monday by mirroring Trump’s populist positions. He also blasted President Obama and Hillary Clinton for their approach to Islamic fundamentalism and tried to finesse his biggest liabilities with conservatives.
Flynn, in an interview with LifeZette, said he is “deeply honored to be considered in the mix of people … the names that are being thrown out there.” But he knows that that since his name emerged as a top choice — with the general seeming to support abortion and gay marriage — there are questions. Longtime leaders in the pro-life community say the general’s tacit support for abortion is a nonstarter, and others questioned his conservative bona fides.
“Donald Trump has renewed faith in a big leader who is willing to be honest, and say what he believes, instead of waiting for somebody to hand a person a set of talking points.”
“General Flynn has disqualified himself from consideration as vice president,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life organization Susan B. Anthony List, said in a statement. “His pro-abortion position is unacceptable and would undermine the pro-life policy commitments that Mr. Trump has made throughout the campaign.”
Dannenfelser was referring to comments Flynn made Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “Abortion, I think for women — these are difficult issues,” he said. “I think women are so important in that decision-making process. They are the ones that have to make the decision because they are the ones that will decide to bring up that child or not.”
Longtime evangelical activist David Lane shared Dannenfelser's concerns. "It seems that General Flynn might bring more to the table for the Hillary Clinton for President campaign than Donald Trump," Lane said Monday, according to LifeSiteNews.
"Let's be frank," Lane continued. "Politically, General Flynn's pro-abortion and same-sex marriage positions forfeit his right to be considered for the Republican vice presidential position in 2016."
Flynn, who has emerged in recent days as a serious contender for the No. 2 spot on the ticket, along with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, emphatically tried to downplay his weakness on the abortion issue and described himself as coming from a pro-life background.
He told LifeZette that he grew up in a Democratic family but said his mother was a pro-life activist and that he marched with her as a child at pro-life rallies. He said he is Catholic and believes in the church's doctrine. But he noted that legal abortion has been the law of the land since the Supreme Court issued its Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.
"It's a complex issue, but it's also a legal issue," he said.
Flynn said he backs Trump's judicial philosophy and agrees with the list of judges the New York billionaire said he would consider to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court. That list won mostly rave reviews from judicial conservatives. "I think that those are great people," Flynn said. "If asked, I might even have other names. But I think that we have to get a court that looks at the Constitution and not political ideology."
Implicit in that stance is the following appeal to social conservatives: While he may not be strongly pro-life, he would support constitutionalist judges who would likely allow states to impose greater restrictions on the procedure or perhaps outlaw it altogether. For Flynn, it's a states' rights issue.
But Dannenfelser isn't having it.
"At the end of the day, clarity on his position should have come before now," she said in a statement to LifeZette. "It is unacceptable for a GOP vice presidential pick to fail to walk through the logical consequences of being pro-life. People who understand their position lead on it, which is why the pro-life movement is winning nationwide. We feel confident that Mr. Trump will pick a pro-life VP nominee."
Flynn for his part made clear that social issues should take a back seat to more pressing issues, like America's war against Islamic terrorism. "The challenges that our country is facing are immense," he said. "They are immense … We have bigger problems we must deal with."
Flynn, who ran the Defense Intelligence Agency, left the administration in 2014 after clashing with the president's top advisers over style and goals. Although he is a registered Democrat, he said he rarely voted — particularly in presidential elections — when he was an active-duty member of the military. His book, released this month, offers a stinging critique of Obama's handling of the War on Terror. He told LifeZette that he wrote the book "to show we are in a war, that there is a war being waged against us, a war that our current administration does not permit us to talk about in a clear, unambiguous fashion."
Flynn said Obama has rejected sound advice to confront radical Islam head-on.
"I just believe that there is an inclination by this administration to believe that they will hurt the feelings of the Islamic world — when in fact, there's many in the Islamic world that find this laughable," he said. "There's no way in warfare that you can get away with not defining the adversary that you're facing. You just can't do it."
Flynn said radical Islam does not represent all or even most Muslims. But he said that perhaps a million people do subscribe to the most violent form of the religion, which — while a small percentage — can cause plenty of danger for the United States.
"The president, himself, doesn't want to say it," he said. "He's so uncomfortable. And why? Why is he uncomfortable to say it? And I think that he's wrong that he does that."
Flynn gave Trump high marks on that score.
"She [Hillary Clinton] lacks any accountability, never mind to the American people, but to herself," he said. "Trust is a really important issue."
"Donald Trump has renewed faith in a big leader who is willing to be honest, and say what he believes, instead of waiting for somebody to hand a person a set of talking points to decide what it is that they're going to do or say," he said. "Donald Trump is someone who's willing to, you know, basically, tell the truth. And be honest about it."
Reports indicated Flynn was chosen for consideration by Trump himself, and not one of the candidate's advisers.
Trump may hope that a Democrat military man with stellar anti-Islamic-terror credentials will entice new voters into the GOP fold, but any new electoral gains could be irrelevant if large swathes of the GOP base decide to stay home — turned off by Flynn's waffling on abortion and past history as a registered Democrat.
Most campaign watchers agree satisfying the conservative GOP base is absolutely critical if Trump hopes to move into the White House. In that regard, Flynn could be a liability.
But Flynn didn't hold back, demonstrating his willingness to play one of the most important roles of any vice presidential running mate — attack dog. He slammed presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's mishandling of classified information during her tenure as secretary of state.
"She lacks any accountability, never mind to the American people, but to herself," he said. "Trust is a really important issue."
Flynn sounded seamless with Trump's position when talking about the strain on the economy, education, and health care caused by loose borders. "We have huge numbers of illegal immigrants in this country that we must do something about," he said.
Flynn also did not hesitate when asked about trade deals like the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership. He was unequivocal in his opposition to the pact.
"They're unfair," he said. "We have cut deals, and we've given the advantage to the other side of the court. And I think they're unfair to the American public. Period."
Regardless of whether Trump selects him as his running mate, the retired Army lieutenant general called it "an incredible honor" to even be considered. "Frankly, it's a really exciting time in my life, to be honest with you, because I'm a kid from a small town in the smallest state in the union, called Rhode Island."
Edmund Kozak contributed to this report.