A product of the “Stop Trump” movement, Evan McMullin isn’t a name that’s heard as often in this Presidential season as Donald Trump’s or Hillary Clinton’s and that’s because the eleven year CIA Operations Officer, former chief policy director for the House Republican Conference, and Wharton School of Business grad has only been in the race since early August.
Since then he’s managed to get himself on the ballot in eleven states and will likely be available as a write-in in thirty-two others as an Independent. McMullin is running on a platform of fiscal responsibility and social and ethnic inclusivity that contradicts much of the rhetoric some members of the GOP have been engaged in for years now. A mormon, McMullin has become especially popular in the state of Utah where he’s polling four points ahead of Hillary Clinton and only five points behind Donald Trump.
I first met Evan McMullin in 2008 in Baghdad’s International Zone (Green Zone). At the time he was an Operations Officer (Case Officer) doing counterintelligence and foreign intelligence work for the CIA. This was during the Spring and Summer and I was there for a few months backfilling for the full-time field Staff Operations Officers and Targeting Officers who were either rotating out or going on a much needed vacation.
The warmest months of 2008 in Baghdad were no cake walk even if you were in the IZ (International Zone). This was during the Jaysh al-Mahdi offensive and most nights you went to bed only after being sung a lullaby by the C-RAM (Counter Rocket and Mortar) klaxon. You woke up the same way, often in the middle of the night or before dawn, and ran to the bunker nearest your trailer. Yes, we slept in trailers. I slept in one with four bunks in it and Evan had one with a single bed, a perk of being stationed in Baghdad for an entire tour.
The following video portrays the every day reality of Baghdad in 2008. You can hear the C-RAM in the background indicating incoming fire. Pardon the profanity.
I lived this reality for a few months but he lived it for at least an entire year. We were both in our early 30s then and Evan was one of the older officers, most were in their 20s. He was also one of the bravest. Without speaking too much about methods, Evan was one of the few officers who would wander outside the IZ to meet with people who had information that the United States government needed to know. He would gear up along with others and head out to do his work.
Evan was brave but he didn’t talk about it and he certainly never crowed about it. He just did it. As a result of that hard work he was able to uncover photographic evidence of mass murder in Syria that no one else had been able to get despite swirling rumors that the Assad regime was engaging in such activities.
Evan was a good guy to work with and a fantastic team player who worked well with subordinates (like me). As anyone who’s ever had a boss knows, that can be everything. He also knew how to take the lead and commanded the respect of senior officers who thought of him as competent and intelligent. I worked with him every day I was in Baghdad and our desks were back to back. We spoke on and off all day and, during stressful days when we were all scrambling, Evan kept a cool head.
There are many things about Evan’s platform that I disagree with. As the descendent of share croppers and oil workers I have always been a dyed in the wool labor Democrat. I am socially liberal. Evan is a conservative and yet he isn’t the kind of conservative that we have seen in a very long time. He has none of the mean spiritedness present in this election nor the empty blustering of the current GOP nominee.
Evan cares about people who are different from him which is both a mark of a good person and a mature one. He knows more about the business of counterterrorism and the on-the-ground realpolitik of international relations than anyone else in today’s Presidential race and, in my direct experience, he is honest. In our current contest between two highly unpopular candidates, one could do worse than vote for the brave, hard-working man from Utah who loves his country and wants to make it better, even if your beliefs don’t line up with his all the way.