Former Representative Jim Traficant (D-OH 17th) was critically injured in a tractor mishap on his daughter's farm in northeastern Ohio. The 73 year old Traficant was believe to be pulling a vintage tractor which tipped over him inside the barn and trapped Traficant underneath the machinery. Paramedics found Traficant unconscious and eventually medivaced him to a hospital in Youngstown, Ohio where he was kept in a medically induced coma to try to stabilize him before he expired.
In a case of sad irony, the accident occurred on the farm which became the focal point of the two month trial in which Traficant represented himself and was convicted on ten counts which included bribery, racketeering, and tax evasion. Thus, the House of Representatives expelled the eight term Congressman on a vote of 420-1 in 2002.
Traficant served seven years in federal prison before being paroled in 2009. While in prison, Traficant turned to art as therapy, which he would sell online to pay for more art supplies. But being in "Club Fed" did not deter Traficant from running for office. In fact, Traficant ran for his old Congressional seat while behind bars and won 15% of the vote vying against his former aide Rep. Jim Ryan (D OH-17th now 13th)
Traficant was a flamboyant figure on Capitol Hill. Traficant insisted on styling a pompadour which Traficant himself called "the weed whacker" but a hairdo which others likened to muskrats mating. In prison, it was became evident that Traficant just sported a bad toupe. Traficant also insisted on wearing out of style clothing in the well of the House, like denim suits and wide lapel sports jackets.
What drew great notoriety for Cong. Traficant was his eccentric, amusing and "earthy" One Minute Speeches.
Traficant would often punctuate his political rant by saying "Beam me up!", thereby repopularizing the Star Trek catch phrase. Assuredly, Traficant's quip of "Beam me up" sounds much better than supporters trying to sing it in a polka honoring the paroled Congressman.
These attention grabbing speeches would generate publicity as light hearted news for the low information voter, but these epic rants reflected the blue collar, common sense sentiments of his Mahoning Valley constituents. Traficant had a 97% anti-abortion voting record, which is certainly an anomaly among Democrats today.
In some ways, Traficant was a precursor of the Tea Party. Traficant loudly spoke out against illegal immigration and advocated immigration reduction. Traficant opposed Ukrainian Nazi John Demjanjuk's deportation, insisting that there already had been a fair trial. Railing against wasteful government spending, opposing open immigration, insisting on the rule of law and defying the Cocktail Party in the District of Calamity (sic) sound much like a proto-Tea Party type.
Generally, Traficant spoke his mind, tried to represent his constituents political sentiments rather than reflect the will of party leaders. That conviction (sic) cost him. Traficant was voting mostly along GOP party lines (but voted against President Clinton's impeachment). So much, Traficant crossed party lines and voted for Denny Hastert (R-IL 14th) for Speaker. Democrats punished Traficant by stripping him of his seniority and committee appointments. Republicans did not reward him with anything for his on-the-limb leadership vote. Thus Traficant found himself without a committee assignment for his last term in Congress, which had not happened in 100 years.
One might conclude that Traficant's comedic Congressional One Minute speeches, his out of fashion styling, crossing over party lines for Speaker and deciding to represent himself in court and Congress indicates that he was not so smart. Well, Mr. Traficant earned two Masters degrees. Moreover, Traficant defended himself in 1983 and beat a RICO charge, being one of the few to ever do so.
James Traficant was a flawed but faithful fellow. May the heavens beam him up and he yields back whatever is left.