Flowers: Flynn's lies, deception cannot be excused

I DON'T BELIEVE in a binary world. It's rarely "either/or," black or white, good or evil. People who live without ambiguity are probably happy, but I'm betting that they're also undesirable dinner guests or life partners.

I wanted to pull my hair out every time someone would tell me in the run-up to the election "you have to vote for Trump" or "you have to vote for Hillary" because not voting for him meant a win for her (or vice versa). They said it was a binary choice. Lazy thinkers.

And I'm still pulling my hair out. My conservative friends agree with me that feminists are hypocritical in the way they trash women they don't like. They nod in recognition when I write that mean-spirited jealousy is at the root of the snarky comments about Ivanka Trump. They understand that attacks on Melania Trump, as in suggestions by a New York Times reporter that she was a prostitute, are misogynistic slander. They see the institutional attempts to destroy Kellyanne Conway, a woman who really did break the glass ceiling, as fear and resentment.

But when I start saying Trump shouldn't have tweeted about his daughter's business, Melania needs to get her shapely butt to D.C., and Kellyanne needs to study up on her massacres, at most I get silence. Usually, though, I get excuses: "Trump was defending his daughter." "Melania is doing it for Barron." "Kellyanne misspoke; cut her a break."

And I pull out a clump.

Liberals are equally hypocritical. They rail against Trump for making fun of people with disabilities, yet viciously attack the president's son with accusations of autism. They accuse Trump of being abusive to women but snort chablis through their noses when they watch "Saturday Night Live" portray Conway as a homicidal, mentally deranged slut. They excuse Hillary Clinton's massive ethical lapse in using a private server but turn Trump into Dr. Strangelove for inappropriate tweeting.

At this rate, I'll be bald in a week.

I suppose it's part of our tribal beginnings. People like to belong to something: a family, a team, a political party. And to be a part of one thing, we have to be against something else. It's as old as the Hebrews and Pharaoh, just without the locusts and the lamb's blood.

The problem with this institutional cheerleading is that it isn't good for personal integrity. That's because no group is always righteous, always on the side of the angels. So if we refuse to criticize our own people when they are so wrong it makes your teeth hurt, we look dishonest. What's worse, we look like fools.

For example, there's a suggestion from some snooty, self-absorbed progressives that Trump is not a smart man. They say he didn't really go to Wharton, he went to Penn. Same difference, and when the president went there, "Wharton" wasn't really seen as having a separate identity from the larger university. But the haters have to tear him down, attack his intelligence, question his savvy.

Pathetic. I said the same thing when conservatives attacked Obama's cred as a constitutional scholar. Both are smart men, but the partisan acolytes will insist on tearing them down. The tribal beast must be fed.

And that beast is growling for red meat this week, and the conservatives are the ones feeding him. Not all conservatives, as we will see. Perhaps not even a majority. But too many for my comfort.

Mike Flynn resigned as national security adviser this week. Or rather, he was fired. It was a more elegant firing than the type Trump is used to serving up, and it was done that way to save face for a loyal foot soldier, but Flynn clearly didn't go willingly.

The former NSA chief had improper, and possibly illegal, discussions about sanctions with the Russian ambassador before Trump was inaugurated. He lied about those discussions. He made Vice President Pence look like an uninformed idiot, which makes me particularly angry, because the only person in that entire administration I really admire (except for "Mad Dog" Mattis) is Mike Pence.

And then, it comes out that Trump knew about Flynn's lie two weeks ago, knew that he was open to blackmail from Russia, knew that he'd made a fool of the VP. He knew all this and did nothing until the press got a hold of the information through a leak (more on that in a minute.)

My conservative friends started circling the wagons right from the start. I saw it happening and thought, "No, no, they're not going to do this after months of skewering Hillary for her carelessness." Not that I blamed them. I skewered her, too. She deserved every shish of the kebab.

But this Flynn business was similar, despite their denials, and I was sad to see the immediate circling of the wagons to excuse both Flynn and Trump.

Alopecia, here I come.

I'm sure many of the president's defenders are doing this as a strategic stand against the Democrats. It's a mixture of loyalty, defiance and self-preservation. I get the need to provide a united front against philistines such as Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren. Heck, frustrating them is a joyful art.

But let's be serious. No objective observer can defend the conduct of Flynn or the president. It's hardly Watergate, but it's a troubling prelude to future scandals if this type of fly-by-the-pants attitude becomes the normal M.O.

And while I'm as troubled as anyone about the leaks from the ship of state, I'm not impressed with conservative attempts to deflect attention from Flynn's loose lips and Trump's tightly sealed ones. Just because someone is on your team doesn't mean he or she gets a pass for unsportsmanlike conduct.

I was happy to see some Senate Republicans have guts and integrity enough to say an investigation is in order. The House could take some lessons from them.

It pains me to call out my homies, who probably will want to expel me from the tribe. But the time for closing our eyes to incompetence and venality, the same things we criticized in the "other," is over.

We need to find our inner integrity, find out what the hell happened here, make accountable those who fell short of their sacred duties and stop living in a binary universe.

While I still have a few strands left.

Christine Flowers is a lawyer.

cflowers1961@gmail.com

@flowerlady61