An alternative to Clinton, Trump and Johnson?

Meet Evan McMullin, the nation’s newest presidential candidate:

Our American Nation is the greatest experiment in freedom the world has ever known. It’s given generations of citizens the blessings of liberty ever since the Founding Fathers risked their lives in what seemed like an improbable bid for independence. While the republic they created was one of imperfect freedoms, for 240 years the arc of progress and liberty has moved ever-upward. Even in times of economic crisis and war, our nation has been a singular source of hope for people throughout the world yearning for liberty, dignity and opportunity.

I proudly and quietly served our country for most of my adult life, first as an undercover operations officer with the Central Intelligence Agency and more recently as a senior national security and policy advisor in the House of Representatives. My service has given me unique, firsthand knowledge of the threats our nation faces, the burdens borne by hardworking Americans, and the numerous areas of our government that desperately need reform.

Like millions of Americans, I had hoped this year would bring us better nominees who, despite party differences, could offer compelling visions of a better future. Instead, we have been left with two candidates who are fundamentally unfit for the profound responsibilities they seek.

Hillary Clinton is a corrupt career politician who has recklessly handled classified information in an attempt to avoid accountability and put American lives at risk including those of my former colleagues. She fails the basic tests of judgment and ethics any candidate for President must meet. Moreover, she only offers stale economic ideas like the same old top-down government control that has brought us eight years of historically low growth.

Donald Trump appeals to the worst fears of Americans at a time when we need unity, not division. Republicans are deeply divided by a man who is perilously close to gaining the most powerful position in the world, and many rightly see him as a real threat to our Republic. Given his obvious personal instability, putting him in command of our military and nuclear arsenal would be deeply irresponsible. His infatuation with strongmen and demagogues like Vladimir Putin is anathema to American values. We cannot and must not elect him.

Millions of Americans are not being represented by either of these candidates; those of us who care about the strength of the military and intelligence services find little to embrace in either Trump or Clinton.

Americans who believe in limited, Constitutional government that is smaller, smarter, and more accountable view both Clinton and Trump as symbols of corruption and excess that provide no hope of basic competence in the federal government.

Those who embrace the dignity and value of every human life from conception until death; who understand the crushing danger of our unsustainable national debt; who believe deference to our Constitution outweighs partisan political priorities are all looking for something better than the two major party candidates are offering. These foundational and time-tested principles transcend party and politics but sadly have no champion in this election. We must not abandon the fight for these values, for doing so will deprive future generations of Americans the bright future we want to give them.

With the stakes so high for our nation and at this late stage in the process, I can no longer stand on the sidelines. 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.

Just as the American Revolution required men and women devoted to liberty and freedom to stand up and be counted, this moment calls a new generation to the same sacred task.

ABC News reports:

McMullin’s candidacy, backed by some Republicans, shows how the “Never Trump” movement is still working to upend Trump even with less than three months left until the general election. McMullin may be a long shot, but will have a legitimate organization behind him. …

The group says prominent Republicans will back McMullin, who has some well-known GOP operatives working behind the effort, including Republican consultant Rick Wilson and Florida-based pollster and operative Joel Searby. Better for America has been funded in part by John Kingston, a Boston-based conservative donor who bundled for Mitt Romney.

McMullin was born in Provo, Utah, and earned a bachelor’s degree in international law and diplomacy from Brigham Young University and a master’s of business administration from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

McMullin served as a Mormon missionary in Brazil and volunteer refugee resettlement officer in Amman, Jordan, on behalf of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. On Sept. 11, 2001, he was in training at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. He completed his training and volunteered for overseas service in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, spearheading counterterrorism and intelligence operations in some of the most dangerous nations, according to the group.

Once he left the CIA in 2011, McMullin went to work for Goldman Sachs in the San Francisco Bay Area and in 2013 became a senior adviser on national security issues for the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and later the chief policy director of the House Republican Conference.

It may unfortunate that McMullin is a Mormon, not because I have (or you should have) anything against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The problem is that 2012 candidate Mitt Romney also is a Mormon, and some people didn’t vote for Romney because they think Mormons aren’t Christians. (Whether or not they are by whatever definition you use is certainly not the issue.)

ABC’s Rick Klein adds:

Calling him a long shot underestimates the odds.

Evan McMullin, the 40-year-old former CIA operative who on Monday became the latest entry to the wild 2016 field, will likely not be elected president. He may not even be able to get on the ballot in enough states to even have a mathematical chance.

But that doesn’t make McMullin irrelevant. If he and the experienced Republican hands behind his candidacy deliver, they could be Donald Trump’s worst nightmare heading into a fall campaign where GOP disunity could make all the difference.

His statement announcing his candidacy was as tough on Hillary Clinton as it was Trump -– a critical part of a potential appeal that will focus on principle over party.

“She fails the basic tests of judgment and ethics any candidate for president must meet,” he wrote of Clinton.

Turning to Trump, he said that electing him “would be deeply irresponsible.”

“Republicans are deeply divided by a man who is perilously close to gaining the most powerful position in the world, and many rightly see him as a real threat to our Republic,” McMullin wrote.

This all might seem like an attempt to script a “Dave” in a world of “House of Cards” -– if not a “Punk’d” for politics. McMullin has never held elected office, and he entered the day he announced his candidacy with barely 100 Twitter followers.

The moment for a third-party candidacy that could actually win has clearly passed. Ballot deadlines are in the rear-view mirror in 27 states, together worth 323 of the 538 electoral votes. You can’t get an invitation to the presidential debates unless you have the potential to at least hit 270 -– not to mention poll at 15 percent nationally.

Given those realities, Trump’s message to conservatives has been simple. “You have no choice,” he said the week before last, citing the need for conservative justices on the Supreme Court.

But it’s actually not that simple. McMullin has the potential -– and that’s all it is right now -– to be a parking place for conservative voters who can’t bring themselves to veer into Hillary Clinton’s lane. Toss in a Libertarian ticket that includes two former Republican governors and voters who lean to the GOP will have options.

McMullin won’t and can’t compete everywhere. Yet he doesn’t have to in order to complicate Trump’s already narrow path to an Electoral College majority.

Take McMullin’s native state of Utah, and its six electoral votes. That’s as red a state as you could design, but also as anti-Trump as any. Ted Cruz won nearly 70 percent of the vote in the caucuses, with Trump running a distant third.

Nevada and Arizona, two other states with sizable Mormon populations, as well as large numbers of Hispanics, could also prove more difficult for Trump with another option on the table. Depending on the margins, virtually any battleground could tip toward Clinton if enough Republican votes find someplace else to go.

The next move is McMullin’s. He’ll need to begin to deliver a message as a first-time candidate, and use the campaign machinery that was erected in expectation of a candidacy to disseminate a message.

Prominent elected officials could be critical to that credibility. Watch Republican senators Mike Lee, Ben Sasse, and Lindsey Graham — if any or all say they’ll vote for McMullin over Trump, his messaging will be amplified.

For now, though, McMullin fulfills a particular yearning, after months of a “never-Trump” movement that wound through Mitt Romney, a contested convention, and –- famously, if briefly — the Iraq veteran and writer David French. (French was arguably better known than McMullin when he flirted with running, back in the spring.)

In all likelihood, McMullin will be the answer to a future political trivia question. He’s unlikely to even share equal billing with Ralph Nader.

But it just might be that conservatives view this election as worth the risk of spoiling. More to the point, he can succeed if they already consider the year to have been spoiled.

I had never heard of McMullin before today. Clearly, though, votes for Hillary! or The Donald are unacceptable. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson isn’t exactly libertarian, as Libertarians have noticed, and the Libertarian foreign policy — basically, stay out of the world when muscle is required — probably strikes otherwise would-be Johnson voters as dangerously naïve and unrealistic.

Long shot though he is, McMullin looks like a normal Republican and someone I could support.

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