Around the time US Sen. Josh Hawley was graduating from Stanford University, US Rep. Elaine Luria was standing watch over nuclear reactors on the USS Harry S. Truman.
The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is named after one of Missouri’s favorite sons, the 33rd president of the United States. Truman was from Independence, Missouri, which is where Hawley, a Republican, grew up.
Luria is a Democrat from Virginia. On Thursday night in prime-time television, Luria and Hawley became forever linked during a dramatic video revelation to the nation. Luria, a member of the bipartisan House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack, was at the helm during the reveal.
Here’s how Luria, a 20-year veteran who graduated from the Naval Academy, set up the clip that had Hawley trending on social media platforms worldwide for all the wrong reasons.
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“Earlier that afternoon, before the joint session started, he walked across the east wing of the Capitol. As you can see, in this photo, he raised his fist in solidarity with the protesters, already amassing at the security gate. We spoke with a Capitol police officer, who was there at the time. She told us that Sen. Hawley’s gesture riled up the crowd. And it bothered her greatly because he was doing it in a safe space, protected by the officers and the barriers. Later that day, Sen. Hawley fled after the protesters he ridden up stormed the Capitol. See for yourself.”
And then she played the images that caused audible laughter in the hearing room, as audience members saw Hawley fleeing through the Capitol to escape the impending violence. It’s not the running, per se, that caused the comic relief. It was the juxtaposition with the photo of Hawley raising his fist earlier in the day.
That’s what made the contrast between Luria and Hawley all the more powerful. Hawley, a political ladder-climber who started running for the US Senate before he got his feet wet as the state’s attorney general, talks tough about support for law enforcement and the military. But he didn’t serve. He rails against elitists. But he is one himself, having graduated from one elitist university on the West Coast and then getting a law degree at Yale University on the East Coast.
He puts the image of himself raising a fist on a coffee mug and sells it as merchandise. But the truth is he fled, running past colleagues, like George Costanza from “Seinfeld” pushing an elderly lady aside as he flees a fire he started.
Luria, on the other hand, came off during the hearing like a disciplined Naval officer, reciting details with no emotion. This has been the greatest strategic success of the televised Jan. 6 hearings. The TV stars have been veterans, or stalwart Republicans like Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wy., or former Trump loyalists like Cassidy Hutchinson and Sarah Matthews and Matt Pottinger — a former Marine officer — whose truth-telling has been obvious to anybody paying attention.
The committee has been slowly building the case that former President Donald Trump led an attempt to upend American democracy.
Hawley is a bit player in the matter. But as the social media memes of him fleeing multiplied — with the video set to music, such as the old “Benny Hill” tune or “Chariots of Fire” theme — the tough-guy narrative he tried to set as a Senate candidate, when he donned an FBI windbreaker for a staged raid on a massage parlor, fizzled into the ether.
“I thought he ran like a coward,” Capitol Police Officer Michael Fanone, who was beaten by insurrectionists, told CNN on Thursday after the hearing.
He was the fist-raising face of sedition. Now he’s the political opportunist who ran away, exposed by a naval officer with excellent aim.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism