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Spy-Turned-President? How Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan Could be a Reality in 2016


Tom Clancy wrote about a spy named Jack Ryan who became president after a string of unlikely events. Will a real Jack Ryan become president in 2016?

George Washington learned the value of espionage from his service during the French and Indian war. For the quarter of a millennium, spying and the US presidency have been the subject of countless books, plays, TV shows, and movies.

Tom Clancy wrote many novels, a few that became blockbuster movies, surrounding the adventures of "Jack Ryan". Some refer to Ryan as Clancy's alter ego, a heroic version of himself and every other red-blooded American boy that dreamed of being a spy (and not to mention, marrying a beautiful and smart woman--a doctor no less). Across multiple novels, Jack Ryan worked as a banker, for the CIA, and through a turn of highly unlikely events, became the president of the US. Jack Ryan has an interesting non-fictional parellel person in this 2016 election, and that is Evan McMullin.

Many people haven't heard of Evan McMullin, and why should they have? Before August, he was an unknown former CIA agent-turned banker working as a senior policy advisor to a high-ranking Republican in D.C. But he, like Jack Ryan was portrayed to often do, did something unconventional for what he thought was the right thing for the greater good. McMullin quit his job to run for president because of the lack of acceptable presidential candidates.

Now is a good time to pause and share a quote from Tom Clancy, who said, "The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense."

Regardless of the degree of sense quitting your job to run for president may or not make, there are a lot of interesting parallels between McMullin and Ryan. Evan McMullin, like Jack Ryan, worked for the CIA. They both returned to school after their early careers. They both were investment bankers. They both were named after their fathers. And Evan McMullin is hoping that, in a string of events as unlikely as those leading Jack Ryan on a path to be president, he too, will become commander-in-chief.

How could McMullin become president? Well, that is where the nuances of the electoral college come into play. If no candidate obtains a majority, or 270 electoral college votes, then the Constitution says the House of Representatives choose between the top 3 candidates. Evan McMullin, a Utah Mormon, is neck-and-neck with Donald Trump in the polls in Utah, largely due to his shared religious influence on other members of the Church of Jesus Christ (colloquially known as the Mormon church. Plus Trump's actions and words counter many Mormon views, like that of treating others with respect and dignity, that women and men are equal partners in life, and overall religious tolerance). Without Utah, Trump has an even smaller chance of getting 270 votes. If McMullin took Utah, and Hillary Clinton somehow didn't get 270 electoral votes, the top 3 clause would be in effect. With the Republican party having a majority in the House, but many Republicans openly not supporting Trump, McMullin would be a conservative alternative to Clinton.

McMullin, as a former Republican senior policy advisor, would not be the first political party-pooper to become a later leader. Winston Churchill left his party earlier in his political career, and again left a stable political post due to his unwelcomed criticism British policy after World War I that he felt potentiated World War II. He said "Some men change their party for the sake of their principles; others their principles for the sake of their party."

While the likelihood of having a spy for a president this year is extremely low, I have to hand it to McMullin for taking a risk. As Tom Clancy said, "In battle, you forgive a man anything except an unwillingness to take risks. Sometimes you have to put it on the line."

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