2016-07-14 / Front Page

Islander as Trump's Veep-Mate?

By Tom Walsh

Michael T. Flynn Michael T. Flynn Retired U.S. Army Gen. Michael T. Flynn, who grew up playing football and other sports on the athletic fields of Middletown, is widely reported to be on Republican Donald J. Trump’s short list of potential running mates – despite having long been a Democrat.

Flynn spoke with Newport This Week on the afternoon of Wednesday, July 13, and said then that, as far as he knew, he was “still in the mix.”

“But I’m not campaigning for a job,” he said. “I’m campaigning for the United States of America.” He said he offered to provide intelligence counsel to presidential hopefuls from both parties as early as last summer and that the presumptive GOP nominee first reached out to him then.

“Trump is the one that I’ve had the most interaction with,” Flynn said. “I found him to be very refreshing.” He added that he thought Trump would be “a good leader, very positive.”

Asked whether he’d been “vetted” by the Trump campaign, Flynn replied, “That’s a good question. I’m an easy guy to vet after three-and-a-half decades in the military.”

The Trump campaign has said that it plans to unveil its running mate choice on Friday, July 15.

Flynn, 57, one of nine children of the late Charles and Helen Flynn, eventually served in the U.S. Army for 33 years, including top assignments in military intelligence that included two years, 2012-2014, as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). His Army career included combat tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Flynn’s tenure at DIA was reportedly cut short over disagreements he had with the Obama administration. He has been an outspoken critic of the current administration since leaving government service, and has expressed sharp criticism of Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, over her controversial handling of sensitive emails.

“I grew up as a Democrat in a very strong Democratic family, but I will tell you that the Democratic Party that exists in this country [today] is not the Democratic Party I grew up around,” Flynn said. He recalled helping his mother work for local Democrats by knocking on doors during election campaigns.

Now, he said, the Democratic Party “seems to be leaning more toward socialism.”

The general, who now lives in Virginia, said he is no longer registered to vote as a Democrat and voted for Trump in that state’s presidential primary earlier this year. “But I don’t like political labels. I vote for leaders.”

Flynn’s brother, Brig. Gen. Charles A. Flynn, has also enjoyed a successful Army career. A military publication, the Fort Leavenworth Lamp, reported in 2010 on the unusual instance of two high-ranking generals from one family. The newspaper quoted their mother then as saying, “Pity the enemy.”

Shortly thereafter, the town of Middletown recognized the brothers and their military accomplishment by designating Sept. 6 of that year as “Generals Flynn Day.” They are said to be the first Rhode Island brothers to ever serve as Army generals at the same time.

“I am honored to be able to talk about Rhode Island and Middletown,” Flynn told Newport This Week. He looked back fondly on his days at the former St. Mary’s Elementary School in Newport. “The nuns used to line us up just like in the military,” he recalled. Flynn was in the church choir during his days at St. Mary’s School. “My sister still sings in that church choir. She’s got a voice like an angel,” he said.

For all his professional and military accomplishments, Flynn said, “I wasn’t the best student.” While attending schools in Middletown, he was told that he “would never amount to anything.” That, he said, “just made me work harder.”

With the Republican National Convention set for July 18-21 in Cleveland, Ohio, the presumptive GOP nominee is said to believe that Gen. Michael Flynn’s presence on the GOP ticket, with his strong background in military intelligence, would bolster a Republican administration’s national security credentials.

According to The Washington Post, Trump, more so than his advisers, has pushed for Flynn in the belief that “current national unrest” calls for a “tough and steady” figure in the ticket’s number two slot.

Besides Flynn, Trump is reportedly considering former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

Beyond team sports, Flynn is described as one who loved the water during his years in Middletown. He was a summer lifeguard at Second Beach and later played water polo at the University of Rhode Island. At URI, Flynn joined Army ROTC and was commissioned as a second lieutenant upon graduating in 1981. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Naval War College in Newport.

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