Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn arrives at Trump Tower, Nov. 17, 2016. President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team are in the process of filling cabinet and high level positions for the new administration. 
Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty

Michael Flynn raises eyebrows for all the wrong reasons

After Donald Trump is inaugurated, Americans will have a president with no foreign policy experience. His vice president will have no foreign policy experience. His chief of staff and chief strategist will, between them, have no foreign policy experience. Even Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations has no foreign policy experience.

Then there’s retired Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s choice to become National Security Advisor, who has the relevant experience – but who’s arguably the worst of the president-elect’s poor choices.

It’s difficult to know where to start with this guy. Do you highlight Flynn’s weird affinity for anti-Muslim conspiracy theories? His problematic and legally dubious lobbying work with Turkey? How about his coziness with Vladimir Putin and Russia’s government?

While each of these details is true and important, I’d start with this New Yorker piece from Dana Priest, who documented Flynn’s habit of breaking rules “he thought were stupid.”
In 2012, Flynn became director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, in charge of all military attachés and defense-intelligence collection around the world. He ran into serious trouble almost immediately. I’ve spoken with some two dozen former colleagues who were close to Flynn then, members of the D.I.A. and the military, and some who worked with him in civilian roles. They all like Flynn personally. But they described how he lurched from one priority to another and had trouble building a loyal team. […]

Flynn also began to seek the Washington spotlight. But, without loyal junior officers at his side to vet his facts, he found even more trouble. His subordinates started a list of what they called “Flynn facts,” things he would say that weren’t true. […]

Flynn’s temper also flared. He berated people in front of colleagues. Soon, according to former associates, a parallel power structure developed within the D.I.A. to fence him in, and to keep the nearly seventeen-thousand-person agency working. “He created massive antibodies in the building,” the former colleague said.
Flynn was fired after 18 months. His career then managed to go from bad to worse.

Once in the private sector, Flynn’s worst instincts led to a series of bad decisions – such as making up weird criticisms of Muslims, needlessly going after President Obama with bogus allegations, and becoming a television personality who earned a reputation for being a little unhinged.

The New Yorker piece added that some of his former colleagues – including Gens. Stanley McChrystal and Admiral Michael Mullen – urged Flynn to “tone it down,” but he didn’t. Instead, he joined Donald Trump’ team, where he was encouraged to be even more radical.

It’s hard not to find his appointment as National Security Advisor – a post that does not require Senate confirmation – more than a little alarming. We’re talking about a guy who was fired from his last government post for being abusive, who’s been accused more than once of mishandling classified information,  and who seems ready to endorse Trump’s pro-torture policies.

If we’re making a list of Trump’s worst personnel decisions, it’s tempting to put Flynn near the top.