When the Democrats regained control of Congress, Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic leadership were reluctant to consider impeaching Donald Trump. A lot of people couldn’t understand why, given the sheer egregiousness of Trump’s behavior. This writer was one of them. But eventually, I came to believe that as reluctant as the Democratic brass was to pull the trigger, Trump’s behavior was going to progress to the point where Pelosi and Co. would be led to conclude that their oaths left no option short of impeachment.
That moment came on September 23, when seven freshman Democrats with military or national security backgrounds published an op-ed in The Washington Post announcing that they now supported an impeachment inquiry. They argued that the mounting evidence Trump tried to browbeat Ukraine into mounting a politically motivated investigation into former vice president Joe Biden was “a flagrant disregard for the law” that amounted to “a threat to all we have sworn to protect”–one that led them to believe Trump may have committed an impeachable offense.
One of those Democrats was Elaine Luria, who represents Virginia’s 2nd District. It’s located in the heart of Hampton Roads and includes all of Virginia Beach, Williamsburg and Yorktown, as well as large slices of Norfolk and Hampton. Luria spent 20 years in the Navy, serving as a nuclear engineer aboard combat ships. She retired in 2017 as a commander–making her one of the highest-ranking female officers ever to serve in Congress, and possibly the highest-ranking female officer to serve in that body.
Luria’s profile was made to order for this district, which has always had a strong naval presence. She narrowly defeated freshman congressman Scott Taylor in 2018, and has a fight on her hands in 2020. But what finally led her to support impeachment was what she saw as the meaning of her oath of office. She drove that point home in an ad that rolled out on Veterans Day. Watch it here.
When Luria arrived at the Naval Academy in 1993, she swore an oath to protect the Constitution “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” She swore that same oath upon graduation in 1997, when she was commissioned as an ensign, and did so again after each of her promotions. It’s almost identical to the oath of office taken by congressmen and Senators upon their swearing-in.
It then cuts to clips about the festering Ukraine scandal while Luria recites her oath of office in reverse. As Aliza Worthington of Crooks and Liars puts it, it symbolizes “how this nation’s ideals and priorities have been turned on their heads and reversed” in the Trump era.
The ad also includes clips of Luria defending her support for impeachment on MSNBC. She stated that while she didn’t set out to impeach Trump, “I also didn’t spend 20 years in the Navy to allow our Constitution to be trampled on.” It closes with Luria telling an audience at a town hall in her district that she doesn’t care if supporting impeachment costs her a second term, because all that matters to her is that “I’m doing the right thing.”
The message here is obvious–Luria sees her oath of office as more important than getting reelected. And she sees upholding an oath that has stayed with her, in one form or another, for most of her adult life as important enough to support impeachment. She probably knew this would resonate with the many naval veterans in her district.
There’s little doubt something else Luria learned in Annapolis was weighing on her mind–the Naval Academy’s version of an honor code, called the “Honor Concept.” It goes beyond the normal statement that midshipmen do not lie, cheat or steal. For instance, it states that midshipmen “tell the truth and ensure that the truth is known.” That’s exactly what this investigation aims to do–to to cut past the dark matter and get to the bottom of what appears to be one of the most ham-handed abuses of power in recent American history.
Luria says that she doesn’t care if supporting impeachment makes her a one-term wonder. But if she was led to conclude that her oath was more important than her election prospects, it only proves that we need more people like her in Washington. We salute you, Commander Luria.
The GOP is going to throw everything that isn’t nailed down at this seat. Let’s show the nation that we care about people who are willing to put action behind the principles by which they claim to live. Donate to Luria here.
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