WASHINGTON (AP) — Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn's tenure as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency came to an abrupt end just as the U.S. was reluctantly pulled back into war in Iraq because of the Islamic State group's brutal blitzkrieg across the country.
The Pentagon said Flynn's retirement had been in the works, but Flynn says he was "let go," because he disagreed with the commander in chief about "radical Islamism and the expansion of al-Qaida and its associated movements," he wrote in the New York Post.
Flynn is now on a short list of potential running mates for presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump — something he described as an "unbelievable honor" in an interview with The Associated Press.
In some ways, the tough-talking general could make an ideal running mate for Trump. The two men speak with one voice against President Barack Obama's approach to the Islamic State group and the need for tighter border security.
Like Trump, Flynn voices an unapologetic need to strike back at radical Islam and kick out anyone living in the U.S. illegally.
But then there's that problem of him being a registered Democrat.
"At this stage, the party affiliation is less important," he told the AP. "If they want a person who believes in the Constitution, who believes in the rule of law, who believes we have big challenges we are facing like illegal immigration, our economic conditions, education, and we have to get those things back on track, then you're speaking to him."
If only it were that simple.
Flynn says he is not opposed to same-sex marriage, something that won't sit well with evangelical Republican-base voters skeptical of Trump's new-found conservatism.
How about on abortion? Well, it's complicated.
On Sunday, Flynn, a native of Middletown, Rhode Island, told ABC News that women "are the ones that have to make that decision because they're the ones.that are going to decide to bring up that child or not." But in the interview with the AP, he said "I would choose life. But I think this is a legal issue," noting that he trusts Trump, more than Democratic rival Hillary Clinton to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court with a conservative.
Flynn says the Democratic Party has moved too much "toward socialism."
The 57-year-old general lashed out at Clinton, saying she "should not have a security clearance," pointing to her use of a private email server for official communications while she was secretary of state. "She doesn't take any accountability for herself, and she put our country at risk," he said.
His 33 years in military intelligence may have led him to question Clinton's use of a private email server on which some material now deemed classified was sent and received. Flynn served as director of intelligence for the Joint Task Force in Afghanistan until July 2002. He also commanded the 111th Military Intelligence Brigade from June 2002 to June 2004, was director of intelligence for Joint Special Operations Command from July 2004 to June 2007 and served in the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
From 2007 to 2008, he served as director of intelligence at U.S. Central Command from June 2007 to July 2008. He later served as NATO's director of military intelligence and finally head of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
For all his critique of the Democratic Party, Flynn isn't exactly enamored with Republicans, especially his peers in the national security community who have voiced opposition to Trump. In March, dozens of members of the Republican national security community signed an open letter calling Trump's vision for America "wildly inconsistent and unmoored in principle."
"It's a bit frustrating when I see these national security experts say something like that, but on the other hand they're going to say it's OK for Hillary Clinton?" Flynn asked. "I think that's irresponsible."
Flynn's Democratic credentials go back to his mother's campaign for secretary of state of Rhode Island. Flynn used to go door to door luring Democrats out of their homes, onto buses and into polling stations for her campaign.
Helen Flynn instilled in her son an interest in civic duty but also a more conservative brand of Democratic politics that the now-retired general says no longer exists.
But he warns Republicans that if they don't get on board with Trump, it could cost them the election.
"If the Republican Party doesn't want to lose another presidential race...they need to check their egos, and they need to get on board," he said. "Let's not have another presidential election that we lose because we cannot get our internal house in order here."
We? Again, it's complicated.
Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann contributed to this report.
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