For­mer SEALs find beach­head in pub­lic of­fice

Four elected in first wave, more vic­to­ries sought

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY ROWAN SCARBOROUGH

Navy SEALs, the most glo­ri­fied war­riors in the war on Is­lamic ter­ror­ists, are not a po­lit­i­cal force in Amer­ica, but un­prece­dented vic­to­ries in this year’s elec­tions have put for­mer frog­men on a po­lit­i­cal beach­head.

Fif­teen years af­ter the 9/11 ter­ror­ist at­tacks, the first wave of for­mer SEAL politi­cians has ar­rived. Four se­cured sig­nif­i­cant elected of­fices on Nov. 8. Col­leagues prom­ise to use the new beach­head to bring more into the arena.

“The team­mates I know who are run­ning for pub­lic of­fice are fired up to make a dif­fer­ence in pol­i­tics,” said Bran­don Webb, a for­mer SEAL who runs the net­work Force12 Me­dia and news web­site SOFREP.

The pathfinder is Rep. Ryan K. Zinke, a Mon­tana Repub­li­can and for­mer mem­ber of SEAL Team 6 who served in the state Senate. He won elec­tion to the U.S. House in 2014 and was re-elected eas­ily last week.

Be­fore Mr. Zinke’s 2014 vic­tory, the last Navy spe­cial war­fare vet­eran elected was Jesse Ven­tura in 1998 as Min­nesota gover­nor, and be­fore that Bob Ker­rey in 1989 as a U.S. se­na­tor from Ne­braska, ac­cord­ing to a re­view.

The fact that four won elected of­fice in one day sug­gests they are cap­i­tal­iz­ing on the fame that goes with be­ing ter­ror­ist-hunt­ing SEALs, the cadre that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the mas­ter­mind of the 9/11 at­tacks.

For Mr. Zinke, the in­flux was al­ways his aim.

“I started SEAL PAC to help elect like-minded vet­er­ans to Congress, but it’s not just Congress,” he said. “I would like to see more vet­er­ans run­ning for state and lo­cal leg­is­la­tures as well as for gover­nor.”

Mr. Zinke, a re­tired com­man­der, has a new com­rade. For­mer SEAL Scott W. Tay­lor, a sniper in Iraq, won a House seat from Vir­ginia Beach, where East Coast SEALs train. The Vir­ginia state del­e­gate de­feated Rep. J. Randy Forbes in the Repub­li­can pri­mary. Mr. Forbes had switched to com­pete in Vir­ginia’s 2nd Con­gres­sional District af­ter a re­draw­ing of the lines in his 4th District cre­ated a Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity there.

An­other for­mer SEAL, schol­ar­war­rior Eric Gre­it­ens, was elected gover­nor of Mis­souri in his first bid for pub­lic of­fice.

Mean­while, for­mer SEAL Frank Hoagland won an Ohio state Senate seat de­spite run­ning a cam­paign on a shoe­string bud­get against a well­fi­nanced Demo­crat. The re­tired chief petty of­fi­cer ben­e­fited from a big turnout of ru­ral vot­ers in south­east­ern Ohio, where pres­i­den­tial exit polls showed sup­port for Don­ald Trump.

The four share a common story: They are conservative Repub­li­cans. They sur­vived the ar­du­ous train­ing and danger­ous coun­tert­er­ror­ism missions that won the hearts of Amer­i­cans. And they found a higher call­ing in pub­lic ser­vice.

“We’re di­verse in the SEAL teams them­selves,” Mr. Tay­lor told The Wash­ing­ton Times. “We have peo­ple who are warrior-diplo­mats who are great politi­cians, and we also have ones who break glass and are kick-the-door kind of guys. It spans the gamut.”

Mr. Tay­lor found him­self in Iraq in the early stages of the U.S.-led mil­i­tary cam­paign. He prac­ticed diplo­mat­war­rior skills as a se­cu­rity con­sul­tant dur­ing the Arab Spring in the Ara­bian Penin­sula, es­pe­cially in Ye­men, home to var­i­ous rebel groups, Ira­nian sur­ro­gates and an al Qaeda fran­chise.

“If you can ne­go­ti­ate in the Ara­bian Desert with armed tribes­men, in Ara­bic and AK-47s, you can def­i­nitely do it here,” said the for­mer petty of­fi­cer 2nd class. “We’re able to see clearly in chaos. We are used to mak­ing clear, mea­sured and great de­ci­sions un­der pres­sure and stress, and we’re just not both­ered by that. You’re in the mid­dle of the desert … and you make de­ci­sions that are life and death. This is easy.”

Mr. Tay­lor, 37, has been a per­sis­tent critic of Pres­i­dent Obama. He co-founded the po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions OpSec, which charges that the pres­i­dent politi­cized the killing of bin Laden and re­leased too many tac­ti­cal de­tails of the mis­sion.

Mr. Webb stays close to the warrior com­mu­nity through his SOFREP web­site, founded by spe­cial op­er­a­tions forces vet­er­ans to in­form the pub­lic about na­tional se­cu­rity.

“Men like my friend Con­gress­man Zinke have served in some of the worst places on the planet and know what it’s like to make hard de­ci­sions un­der pres­sure,” he said. “We’ve all come home and seen the vet­er­ans ad­min­is­tra­tion in dis­re­pair, and how poorly many ca­reer politi­cians un­der­stand the na­ture of how our failed for­eign pol­icy has played out in Syria, the Mid­dle East, Afghanistan and North Africa. We have tough de­ci­sions to make, and I’m glad these guys are stepping up to pro­vide much-needed per­spec­tive and lead­er­ship where there is lit­tle cur­rently.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Rep. Ryan K. Zinke, a Mon­tana Repub­li­can and for­mer mem­ber of SEAL Team 6 won elec­tion to the U.S. House in 2014 and was re-elected eas­ily on Nov. 8.

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