In the 1964 movie “Dr. Strangelove,” the part of Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper, described in Wikipedia as a “paranoid ultra-nationalist,” was played by Sterling Hayden. If the movie was made today, the role would go to Michael T. Flynn — on the face of it as much a paranoid ultra-nationalist as the fictitious Ripper. Flynn, though, is no fictional creation. He’s Donald Trump’s choice for national security adviser.
Flynn, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and a retired lieutenant general, is already known for his bizarre tweets, not to mention his bizarre management style. (He was ousted by the Obama administration for the way he ran the DIA and for his odd judgment.) He was always an inappropriate choice for national security adviser, a post so powerful that it vies with secretary of state in influencing the president on foreign affairs and national security.
I hate to think how Flynn will be remembered. He is already known for believing that Islamic law was spreading in the United States and for claiming that Hillary Clinton was somehow responsible for the attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya. Now, though, the New York Times reports that Flynn posted on Twitter a phony report that New York’s police and prosecutors “had found evidence linking Mrs., Clinton and much of her senior staff to pedophilia, money laundering, perjury and other felonies.”
“U decide,” Flynn tweeted.
Well, I have decided. Flynn is clearly unsuited to be the president’s national security adviser. He cannot be the last one to whisper in Trump’s ear about some crisis, the one who determines what documents the president has to read, ought to read or just plain might find interesting. Will it be some crackpot theory about this or that conspiracy? Might it be “verification” that, yes, a sex trafficking ring is being run out of a Washington pizza parlor? Flynn’s son, who has served as his chief of staff, seemed to give that some credence. “Until #pizzagate proven to be false, it’ll remain a story,” he tweeted. “The left seems to forget #PodestaEmails and the many ‘coincidences’ tied to it.”
The two Flynns, father and son, are entitled to their views, but not access to the Oval Office. Flynn Sr. would be dangerous enough if he were advising a president who actually knew something about foreign affairs. That is not the case here. Trump has no experience and no knowledge. This is a preposterous situation. It is also a dangerous one.
Flynn does not need Senate confirmation. Nonetheless, his appointment needs to be blocked. Leading Republicans have to convince Trump that he has appointed a dangerously addled person to be his national security adviser. Maybe previous ones could make the call — Brent Scowcroft, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Kissinger, to name just four. If that doesn’t work, the Senate might consider holding up appointments that do require confirmation. Mitch McConnell can finally do something useful.
“Dr. Strangelove” has over the years achieved the status of a classic — a brilliant satire, a comedy. Now, though, one aspect of it is beginning to look more and more like a documentary — a mad general with paranoid conspiracy theories. Trump has to dump Flynn. The movie has to remain a comedy.