The game has just gotten stranger. Earlier today, a new camp announced it would be throwing their proverbial hat into the political ring. According to an ABC news article, largely unknown Evan McMullin announced today his bid to run for president of the United States. McMullin will run as an independent third-party conservative candidate representing the “Anyone but Trump” movement. A native of Provo, Utah, McMullin is a graduate of Brigham Young University who earned a bachelor’s degree in international law and diplomacy, and a master’s in business administration from the University of Pennsylvania. He has been a missionary, worked at Goldman Sachs, and was a senior advisor on national security issues for the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Oh, did I also mention that he was a CIA officer? What’s that you say? Why didn’t I mention that from the start? Well , as uncouth as it may be, I must answer a question with a question: Would it really matter?
Respect for the person, not the title
Now, I have to say that I am in no way bashing Mr. McMullin. He would run political circles around me; I will be the first to admit that. My point here is that—admit it—the mention of his service with the CIA inspired the involuntary “Hell yeah! He’s got my vote!” reaction from some of you. And that’s fine, if that’s how you roll. But for me, I need to know a little something about a potential candidate’s political track record. If they don’t have one, it makes me cringe, but if they are sincere and can articulate their plans and intentions, well then they have my ear. But one trap I won’t fall into is the “He/she/both (this is 2016, after all) is a vet/FBI agent/CIA officer/EMT/firefighter/dog walker, so they have to be qualified to be commander in chief” abyss. That statement probably won’t earn me any fans, but ah well. We as a nation need to face some harsh realities, and our love affair with whatever slice of Americana we worship is one of them.
Again, I don’t knock McMullin. Hell, according to some articles, he was in training with the CIA when the United States was attacked on September 11, 2001. He completed his training, then volunteered to serve overseas in countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia, which would come to define the front lines in the War on Terror.
I admire and respect the Navy SEAL who deployed nine times to take the fight to the bad guys, or the Apache pilot who stayed on station to cover that platoon that was pinned down. I will buy the bar if I ever get the chance to meet these heroes (an often overused word). But let’s be clear: None of that makes them qualified to be president. It doesn’t hurt, but it also does not singularly qualify them.
The whole candidate
So how about we try this: Let’s take a look at the whole candidate. Let’s see them as a qualified or unqualified candidate who happens to be a vet, a business mogul, a police officer. Let’s listen to what they say, and how they say it, and then let’s put aside our bias and then decide. Evan McMullin’s background, both educational and professional, would undoubtedly aid him in his bid for the White House. But that, and most especially his time at the CIA, shouldn’t be his only platform.
And to be honest, I am hoping that it isn’t. The media and his supporters will throw around words and phrases like “operative,” “agent” (completely in the wrong context, a huge gripe of mine), and “clandestine,” and in one sense or the other, they will apply to McMullin. But whether or not he can rise above the “hero box” upon which we as a society tend to put folks like him will give a glimpse into what type of candidate he will truly be.
It can be done, and it has been done. Tammy Duckworth, a former Army Blackhawk pilot, is now a U.S. representative hailing from Illinois. She lost both legs while serving in Iraq after her helo was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Despite losing her legs and sustaining a severe injury in one arm, she petitioned for and was granted the chance to stay in the military, retiring with the rank of lieutenant colonel. She again fought for and won a seat in the House of Representatives, where she works today. She, along with vets like 23-year SEAL Ryan Zinke (R – Montana) and Derek Weida (combat veteran and “amputee extraordinaire”—his words, not mine!), overcame their “celebrity” and made their mark based on their belief systems and heart.
During his announcement for his bid to make a presidential run, McMullin stated, “With the stakes so high for our nation and at this late stage in the process, I can no longer stand on the sidelines,” adding, “Our country needs leaders who are in it for the right reasons and who actually understand what makes this country the greatest on Earth. Leaders who will unite us and guide us to a prosperous, secure future, beyond the dysfunction of a broken political system.”
I hope that this is the platform you choose and stick to, sir. Given your late entry into the game, your anonymity to this point, and the blinding, Hollywood-like (as in a comedy and a Manchurian Candidate-esque) glare of your opponents, your time on the stage is likely to be a brief one, but this is your chance to rise above those three letters and make your mark.