Why Donald Trump is considering a general for his running mate

According to reports, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump is considering former Lt. Gen Michael Flynn as his running mate. 

Gary Cameron/Reuters
Former Defense Intelligence Agency director U.S. Army Lt. General Michael Flynn, shown here testifying in the House of Representatives in Washington in 2014, is being considered as a possible vice presidential candidate by presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Presumptive Republican nominee for President Donald Trump is reported to be seriously considering retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn as his vice presidential pick.

If he were to select a high-ranking military man, Trump, often viewed as a populist who bucks mainstream political orthodoxy, would be following a tradition practiced by the two most recent independent populists with the strongest showings in presidential races: Ross Perot in 1992 and George Wallace in 1968.

According to The Washington Post, Trump, not his aides, is leading the increased focus on selecting a general, as a "tough and steady" running mate might prove popular amid current national unrest. Flynn has been advising Trump on foreign policy during the campaign, Politico reported. 

Although a registered Democrat, Flynn has been highly critical of President Obama and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. He led the Defense Intelligence Agency before being forced out in 2014 after butting heads with officials about his leadership style and vision, the Post reported. 

"All I would say is that I have been honored to serve my country for the past three decades and look forward to serving in other ways now that I am retired from the US Army," Flynn told the New York Post, which broke the news that he is being vetted. "I’ve been a soldier too long to refuse to entertain any request from a potential commander in chief."

Trump praised Flynn in a statement to the NY Post, saying he respects Flynn and "his advice is important."

"I like the generals. I like the concept of the generals," Trump said Wednesday on Fox News.

Although Trump is also still considering picking a more traditional politician as his running mate, aides say Trump suggests a general could solidify his tickets' outsider status. 

Two other "outsider" candidates who ran as independents selected retired military leaders as running mates, with George Wallace selecting retired Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay in 1968 and Ross Perot selecting retired Navy Adm. James Stockdale in 1992. 

Major party nominees do not often select generals as running mates. Instead, they typically pick individuals who help address a candidate's political weakness or appeal to certain wing of the party, Richard Kohn, a professor emeritus of history at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, told the Post. 

"They’re usually trying to provide some kind of political bump or political energy or political attractiveness with their VP nominee in such a way as to carry a state or a region or to send some sort of a message," he said.

Independents are more willing to select former military leaders to stress their outsider, nonpartisan status, Kohn told the Post. 

Flynn's domestic policy beliefs are little known, which is worrying some Trump aides, the Post reported. Flynn said Sunday he favored a women's right to choose but abortion and same sex-marriage are not issues that would "cause our country to collapse" and that he was was more concerned about national security, education, and immigration. 

There are a handful of other reasons military leaders are not commonly added to the presidential tickets of major parties. Generals typically have little name recognition, and senior military leaders may not be comfortable in a No. 2 spot, Duke University political scientist John Aldrich told the Post.

Retired Gen. Jack Keane has also been noted as a possible Trump VP pick. Gen. Keane told the Post, however, that he was not interested in the position.

"We have a sufficient political class, and the military doesn’t have to get involved in high national office," he said. "The days of doing that, post-Civil War and post-World War II, are gone."

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