Is it fair to call him the frontrunner? Yesterday’s splashy WaPo story about Flynn’s rise through the VP ranks didn’t use that word specifically, but it sure made it sound like he’s the guy Trump is looking at most closely right now.
He’s a Democrat, pro-choice, and apparently a friendly acquaintance of Vladimir Putin. He’ll fit right in.
After weeks of focusing on a group of current and former elected officials in his search for a running mate, Donald Trump is increasingly intrigued by the idea of tapping retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn to project strength and know-how on national security, according to four people familiar with the vetting process…
The turn toward a military figure is being driven by Trump himself rather than by his advisers, the people said, and comes as the real estate mogul is telling his friends that national unrest may demand a “tough and steady” presence alongside him on the ticket.
In Flynn, they added, Trump thinks he would have a partner whom he trusts, based on their close working relationship over the course of the campaign on policy. And he likes the image of a businessman and a general coming to Washington as outsiders.
“Trump-Flynn. I’ve heard him say that, kind of test out the sound of it,” one source told WaPo. George Wallace and Ross Perot, two other populist “outsider” candidates, also chose servicemen as their VPs (Curtis LeMay and James Stockdale, respectively). WaPo noted of Flynn, though, that “his views on domestic policy are mostly unknown.” After this morning’s interview with ABC, they’re … pretty well known now:
Issues like abortion and same-sex marriage are not at the top of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s list of priorities, the former intelligence official and registered Democrat who is reportedly being vetted as Donald Trump’s running mate said Sunday.
“What people do in their private lives, these are not big issues that our country is dealing with that will cause our country to collapse,” Flynn told ABC’s Martha Raddatz on “This Week.” “I’m more concerned that our country could collapse because we are not dealing with education issues, immigration issues.”…
On abortion, he said, “I think it’s a — I think for women — and these are difficult issues but I think women have to be able to choose what they — you know, sort of the right of choice but I think that that’s a difficult legal decision that — and I think that women are so important in that decision-making process.”
Political media is wringing its hands on Twitter this afternoon that Flynn’s positions on social issues will sink him as a potential VP but I don’t see why. With respect to gay marriage, not only has Trump stayed far away from the subject (he initially disagreed with social conservatives about North Carolina’s law on transgender bathroom use, a proxy issue for LGBT views generally), the party itself may tweak the language in its platform this year to make it less critical of same-sex unions. On abortion, Trump has alternated from hardline pro-life to effectively pro-choice in the span of four days, telling reporters earlier this year that (a) women who abort once Roe is repealed and the practice is banned should face criminal punishment and (b) the abortion laws we have right now should be left alone. Years ago he famously called himself “very pro-choice”; since his emergence as a Republican political figure, he’s described himself as pro-life but still has flattering things to say about Planned Parenthood. He devotes about the same amount of energy trying to convince people that he’s staunchly anti-abortion as he does trying to convince them that he’s devoutly Christian. Which is to say, not much.
So go figure that he’d be considering Flynn. Evangelicals (at least the ones who don’t go to church regularly) supported him overwhelmingly in the primaries against social conservative Ted Cruz despite Trump barely making a pretense of sharing their religious values. If there’s any glaring lesson from the nomination battle this year, it’s that the GOP base will not use social issues as a litmus test provided you can convince them that you share their cultural values in other ways, like with ostentatiously politically incorrect views about mass deportation of illegals and banning Muslims from entering the country. Flynn’s a good match with Trump in that respect: He may be wildly out of sync with the GOP party line on abortion and gay marriage but he claims he was dismissed as head of DIA under Obama for being too politically incorrect about terrorism. If you’re looking to ingratiate yourself to Trump’s base, there’s no more sterling credential than being on Barack Obama’s bad side because you’re too much of an uncompromising hard-ass on confronting jihadis. And as you’ll see, Flynn gave the right answer in this morning’s interview on the other key litmus test, immigration, when asked. How do you feel about “undocumented” immigrants, Martha Raddatz asks. “Undocumented or illegal?” Flynn replies. “OK, so if it’s illegal, it’s illegal. If they’re here illegally then it’s illegal.” He doesn’t specifically say “they all need to go” but he’s got the logical foundation for Trump’s position.
Lest anyone doubt that his social views won’t be a problem for Trump’s core fans, let me remind you of this comment from Trumpkin Numero Uno last year:
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) August 16, 2015
So there you go. As a Twitter pal said last night, if Trump ends up picking Flynn, we’ll have four Democrats on the top of the ballot this year — assuming, that is, that delegates allow it. Read this BuzzFeed piece about the fallback plan for anti-Trumpers in Cleveland if, as expected, they fail to dump Trump as nominee. The rules that bind delegates to vote for a presidential candidate according to the results of their state’s primary obviously don’t apply to VP candidates. Typically the delegates rubber-stamp whichever VP the presidential nominee chooses, but maybe not this year. They have it in their power, with a few tweaks to current rules, to defeat Trump’s pick and install their own pick as VP. “It’s a counterweight to Trump,” a source told BuzzFeed. “It’s the grassroots saying if you’re going to do this, you’re going to do it with our pick.” Trump may like the sound of “Trump/Flynn” but he may be stuck with the reality of “Trump/Cruz.” Just one question: Who the hell would want to be drafted to be Trump’s number two, especially if they’ve already endured the public humiliation of not being his handpicked choice? Why would Ted Cruz, eyeing a 2020 run, agree to serve on a ticket that seems highly likely to be defeated, maybe in a landslide, and which will taint him by association with whatever weirdness Trump injects into the campaign the rest of the way?
Two clips for you here, one of Flynn’s interview this morning (the abortion/SSM bit comes at 5:00) and one of Trump superfans Sean Hannity and Newt Gingrich in 2008 discussing the worrisome possibility that John McCain might put — gasp — a pro-choice Democrat on the ticket in Joe Lieberman. Can’t wait for their reaction (especially Newt’s!) if Flynn is indeed the pick.