Tuesday, April 09, 2002

Beam Me Up, Your Honor!

Congressman James A. Traficant, Jr. is now waiting on a verdict in his bribery trial in Cleveland, Ohio that may very well end his colorful political career. I can't dislike this man. He's funny, he's courageous, he's a fighter, he's probably the most corrupt politician in the House, and I just love him to bits. I want to forgive him his transgressions and set him back up as Youngstown's champion Congressman, who's not afraid of anybody: not afraid of the Democrat leadership and especially not the federal government. He's certainly never needed anyone's help, though. Here's a guy who took several thousand dollars from the mob as Sheriff of Mahoning County, Ohio, and beat a federal bribery wrap representing himself during the trial. Who cares how, he beat a federal wrap on his own two feet, riding the success to Congress in 1984.

But Traficant has seen better days. Traficant bucked the Democrat leadership, who attempted to unseat him in a primary he won handily in 2000, by voting for Dennis Hastert for Speaker. The Dems look away all his committee assignments. The Ohio Legislature redistricted Traficant's district out of existence for 2002. Neither party will touch him because of his indictment. Remembering their fate from years past, the Feds have tried to put together an air-tight case. They've got physical evidence and they've got credible direct testimony from witnesses. (Not that they didn't in 1983.) So even if Traficant wins the case, his political prospects are bleak. But, I wouldn't bet against him quite yet. And I wouldn't be so quick to judge him. To poorly paraphrase a quote, former Senator Alan Simpson, himself a unique character, had a favorite axiom that stated every group deserves and gets representation in Congress: the crooks, the liars, the egomanias, everyone. Everyone plays a part in our unruly democracy, and I wouldn't change it for the world.

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