LTG Mike Flynn on the Presidential Contest

Interview with Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn

By Jason Criss Howk, Dispatches from Pinehurst (now on Facebook )

2 June 2016

I recently sat down with Lt Gen Mike Flynn, whose name was floated in the media as a Vice President pick, to get his thoughts on the presidential race. He has a book coming out very soon about how America should deal with the global radical violent Islamist movement, called The Field of Fight.
Mike on my recent travels around the South I have talked with various friends and family about foreign affairs, national security, and leadership. Everyone always wants to know what I think of the Presidential race and freely offers their choice for President. When it comes to people that are not “pro-Trump” (openly supporting him) I am surprised by the convictions they hold. In no uncertain terms people tell me that, even if they don’t like Mr. Trump personally, they will vote to elect him president over Mrs. Clinton. They have described in great detail and colorful language their distrust for Hillary and how much they despise her feeling of entitlement to be president. These citizens also held no punches describing how much they disliked some of the attributes of Donald Trump the person, but they said they would vote for him because he is the best hope for disrupting the dysfunction in Washington D.C. that has been hardened by DC elites and insiders. I am getting the feeling that if ever there was a “year of the outsider” in politics this is it.

Q: Let’s start with your views on Mr. Trump as you have made clear your mistrust of Mrs. Clinton many times. I understand you offered to advise any presidential campaign on national security and of all the camps you have been advising, Mr. Trump is the only one remaining. When you talked to Mr. Trump how did you find his ability to listen and digest critical issues? Does he listen to all points of view and choose the best idea or does he always go his own way regardless of what the smart people around him say?

A: Up front, I believe Secretary Clinton violated the trust of the American people in her actions as Secretary of State by disregarding policies, regulations, and other federal directives when handling sensitive government information, to include highly classified information (that became very clear in the recent release of the State Department’s Inspector General report—that should be must reading for anyone who thinks she is capable of being our next President). And to make the American people go through a potential national election with the dark cloud of a federal indictment hanging over her head is such a travesty of justice and demonstrates her complete disregard for the rule of law in this country, never mind putting the American people through the uncertainty of the massive investigation the Department of Justice has to pursue simply due to her disregard for doing the right thing. 

Everyone knows it, to include herself, and for her to say she made a mistake and wouldn’t do it again, is beyond unacceptable and rises to the absurd—her unprecedented actions show her to be a reckless person when it comes to the handling of the nation’s most sensitive national security issues—she knew she was doing the wrong thing when using a personal system for government business—she knew she was a target of our most serious adversaries like China and Russia (never mind cyber hackers), yet she continued to operate as though she was above the law and above simple common sense—she proved she has none—probably the most important leader characteristic one can have.

Regarding Mr. Trump; he and his team invited me to his Trump Tower NYC office for a visit to speak to him about national security and foreign policy issues. We held a very serious and relatively lengthy discussion about the global situation and the many complex issues we face. The discussion ranged from the problems confronting the world with the rise of radical Islamism, to our relationships with Russia and China, the Iran nuclear deal, the necessity to renew and strengthen our relationship with the State of Israel, as well as other topics such as transnational criminal activity, the growing nature of cyber threats, as well as the different international forums that needed to change to better operate in the 21st Century, such as NATO or our Asia – Pacific partnerships. We also spoke about U.S. internal national security issues such as our substandard elementary and secondary education system and the internal threats to the homeland from radical Islamists elements as well as the increasing threats presented by illegal immigration, especially threats to our economy and healthcare system—both with incredibly rising costs that are impacting our economy (the latter being the most severe threat our nation faces today—a struggling economy). We spoke about general but strategic solutions to some of these but overall, our discussion was broad, strategic and focused on important issues the next President of the United States will deal with…he recognized that none are easy and he didn’t seem in any way overwhelmed by the magnitude of the challenges. 

I found he had a good grasp of each issue simply based on the questions he was asking, and what he already knew about each of the issues—he’d clearly been reading, studying and listening—my judgment then and now is that he has a solid grasp of global issues and sees the United States as the one nation on the planet that must still lead—but we also agreed that respect for the United States is at an all time low around the world because of poor foreign policy decisions and our lack of smart leadership when it counted. 

On the latter set of issues, I found Mr. Trump to be an excellent listener who asked great, probing questions. He was also very respectful of my time and service to country—which I appreciated. I believe he will continue to be a good listener and will be a leader who takes in as much information as he can absorb which, in my judgment, seems to be quite a bit, and will make good, sound decisions based on what I would describe as the harder right decisions and not the politically correct or ideological decisions, but what is best for the country. I did raise my concern and we did speak about the perception that people had of his temperament and style, but I did not find him someone who would be hard to deal with at all—like I experienced at times in the military where I ran into “leaders,” especially political appointees, who were especially hard to deal with and had zero leadership skills nor based decisions on what was best for the country, rather they would base them on their own personal interests at the time or on some distorted perception of their political ideology. All in all, I found Mr. Trump engaging, smart, polite, and very willing to be challenged.

: You know I write a lot about good and bad leadership, and we have both seen our fair share of great and poor leaders at the most senior levels of the government. What good leadership traits have you seen in Mr. Trump during your interactions with him? What are some weaknesses he can improve upon?

A: He has excellent listening skills. He can obviously impassion people to take a stand—but he also stands with you; he has the intellectual courage to take on the status quo—something our country desperately needs right now. He is a change agent that is willing to fight for the country—he recognizes our challenges but also is a superb problem solver who will be willing to actually find solutions to many of these challenges, and be willing to do the harder right things for our country. He has a strategic leader quality that would allow subordinates to execute their jobs but he demands accountability, and he appears to take accountability for his actions. As a global business man, he understands the differences between risks and gambles and knows how to get the best out of the people he surrounds himself with and he is willing to surround himself with street smart people as much as school smart people. Lastly, he cares about his family and it shows in how he deals with this aspect of his life.

: Likewise you have worked at the senior levels of Government during Mrs. Clinton’s tenure as the Secretary of State, did you witness any good leadership qualities in her? Besides her obvious lack of good judgement when it comes to handling classified intelligence materials and hiring people who share that same flaw, what are her weaknesses?

A: In my time in government, I testified to her committee when she was the Senator from New York and I found her to be up on the issues we were dealing with and thought she asked good questions. I did not deal with her directly while she was SECSTATE and only observed her actions from my senior assignments in the US Intelligence Community. She seemed polite enough, clearly smart, but the mistakes I witnessed in foreign policy deliberations, especially when it came to the decisions on Libya, the Middle East, Radical Islamist behavior around the world, how we dealt with Pakistan, the poorly executed “reset with Russia” and the lack of any real China policy is very telling to me about her inability to prioritize or move on big issues. I’m also biased in my attitude toward her because of the issue with her judgment in how she decided (no one else decided) to operate as the Secretary of State for the United States of America. Her blatant disregard for security is so bad, and as I’ve stated publicly, I would be in jail for these violations, that it affects my offering any positive leadership traits, because a good leader would not put themself into such a terrible position, especially one who thinks she should be the next President of the United States.

: I have been reading the death threats and vulgar comments from Bernie Sanders supporters towards Hillary Clinton, why do you think people dislike her so strongly even in her own party? Some state surveys are showing that many Bernie supporters would vote for Trump instead of Hillary if it came down to it.

A: One short phrase…the American people do not trust her.

Q: If you were selected as running mate by either Presidential candidate what would be the issues of most importance to you as you hit the campaign trail?

A: No comment

Q: If you had your choice of Americans to fill some key cabinet positions; who would you choose to help improve those agencies or organizations? Is there a place you would like to see yourself? Here are some vacancy choices: 

Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury , Veterans Affairs Secretary, Director of National Intelligence, CIA Director, National Security Advisor and Deputy

A: In all cases, I do believe we have superb leaders who are serving or have served in our military that would make exceptional choices for any of these positions. I also believe there are some in the business community that could step in to help. The American people want strong, tough, smart leadership right now—we haven’t gotten it from the current political class of people (with a few exceptions). And the past few administrations have made some incredibly stupid decisions that have caused untold problems for our country (economic, military, foreign policy, and national security). Regardless of who steps into these jobs, they better put the country first and not their own egos.

Q: Thanks for taking the time today to answer these questions. Do you have any final thoughts on the 2016 presidential race or the state of our nation? Or maybe tell us a little bit about why your book is worth buying this summer?

A: My book, The Field of Fight, How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies offers solutions to the problems we face given the rising tide of radical Islamism. All others only discuss how bad the problem is…this book is about winning and not simply participating in this current never ending conflict our nation finds itself in.

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