MICHAEL FLYNN SPEAKS to an audience at Ripon College three months before being fired for lying to the vice president. 				          Ian Stepleton photo
MICHAEL FLYNN SPEAKS to an audience at Ripon College three months before being fired for lying to the vice president. Ian Stepleton photo

     In the wake of President Donald Trump’s firing of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn last week, it’s instructive to review the speech he gave at Ripon College exactly three months ago this week.

     Flynn’s 46-minute talk Nov. 21 was ... his first significant public appearance since Trump had appointed him to the post four days earlier, and his only extended remarks to this day.

     While some of his talk was scripted, college-speech circuit boilerplate — public service is noble, patriotism is not dead, youth should be life-long learners — some of it was a fascinating window into the world view of a man who, until nine days ago, had the president’s  trust and ear on national security events and geo-political strategy. Flynn’s selection is a reflection of Trump’s judgement. So is his fall from grace.

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     Flynn stepped down last week after the Washington Post reported that he had lied to then Vice President-Elect Mike Pence and other soon-to-be senior White House staff about the nature of his Dec. 29 phone conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, who called him on the same day President Obama imposed sanctions on Russia for its meddling in the American election.

     The next day, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country would not retaliate against the United States. Trump responded, tweeting that “I always knew he was very smart!” ...

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    Little did those sitting in the audience at Ripon College’s Great Hall realize they were watching the first act of a morality tale whose tragic denouement would play out three months hence.

     Before being outed as a liar in February, Flynn was talking to the Ripon crowd in November about how honesty is necessary to retain credibility and integrity.

     In the final five minutes of his talk, Flynn offered this: “The last point has to do with credibility and integrity. You are going to make mistakes, you’re going to do stupid things. Believe me, smart people do stupid things all the time, even when they become older adults. ... [Integrity is] your honesty, it’s your passion for something. Nobody’s going to give it to you. What’s given to you is credibility [based on service and accomplishment] ... In order to get that credibility you have to maintain your integrity. Don’t lose your integrity. When you begin to lose your integrity you lose your credibility. It’s not a good place to be.”

    He uttered these words two months and five days before lying to Pence and, by extension, to the American people. ... 

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     ... Flynn’s observations are particularly fascinating in light of events that transpired during the past three months since Trump was elected. In flashes of paranoia, hubris and irony, Flynn:

     * suggested Americans’ are getting mixed messages, and pessimism, from news outlets. ...

     * put forth America’s two greatest challenges: the rise of radical Islam and a resurging Russia. “Russia is reinvigorated,” he said. “For many reasons we have enabled that.” ...
                                   — Tim Lyke

     To read the entire editorial, see the Feb. 23, 2017 edition of The Ripon Commonwealth Press.