Jim Traficant, 1941–2014

Scottie finally beamed him up.


The late Jim Traficant, who served 17 years in the House of Representatives and then seven years in the federal pen, might be the only congressman ever to start a prison riot. I can't say for sure that there weren't any others, and for that matter I can't say for sure that the Traficant riot really happened. But here, for the record, is what Traficant told Greta Van Susteren after his release in 2009:

There's a riot goin' on.

Traficant: Before long, I was in the hole.

Van Susteren: For what?

Traficant: Well, they said I caused a riot. I asked a question of some jackass C.O. over there, some officer who was so dumb he could throw himself to the ground and miss. But anyway…

Van Susteren: What was the question?

Traficant: I forget what it was.

Van Susteren: Like what? I mean, can you give me an idea—was it…

Traficant: No. I said, "People can't hear you. Speak up."

Van Susteren: And you went to the hole for that?

Traficant: I went to the hole. But anyway, they said it caused a riot. They shackled me and took me in front of the whole body into some room over there and they put me in the hole.

Most of the attention that interview attracted focused on the ex-congressman's claim that his downfall had been engineered by the State of Israel—and yes, that paranoid portion of the conversation says a lot about Traficant's worldview. But the prison-riot exchange might be the ultimate Traficant tale, inasmuch as different audiences can construe it as either the persecution fantasy of a crooked loudmouth or the story of a man being punished for little more than stating a simple truth. It is even possible to read it as both, since crooked loudmouths have been known to state uncomfortable truths from time to time.

Traficant's years in prison, which followed a conviction for taking kickbacks and for other sorts of graft, were not his first time behind bars. As the sheriff of Mahoning County, Ohio, in the early 1980s, he spent a little time in jail after he refused to enforce some foreclosures, a populist gesture that endeared him to a constituency with no love for banks. Elected to Congress as a Democrat, he crusaded not just against bankers but against the IRS, the DoJ, and the regulatory state. Apparently, his constituents weren't crazy about the feds, either.

That sort of rust-belt populism, which also included a strong dose of economic nationalism, isn't unusual in Traficant's section of the country. I certainly met many people with a similar combination of views when I lived in Michigan. But their perspective doesn't ordinarily have a voice in Congress. Traficant became that voice, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. He was the sort of guy who'd spin loopy conspiracy theories in which hidden forces were manipulating Attorney General Janet Reno by threatening to reveal her secret dalliances with call girls. But he was also one of the few congressmen to criticize Reno's actions in Waco in the immediate aftermath of the assault that left dozens of Davidians dead in 1993, well before it was widely accepted that the government had screwed up. In the wake of those Waco comments, Bill Kauffman wrote that Traficant was "zany and frequently right-on," which was as good a way as any to describe a man who sounded like a nut but at times really did speak truth to power.

Traficant wore a ridiculous toupée, made Star Trek references on the House floor, spouted accusations that he couldn't back up, and ended up in jail. He was easy to mock, and plenty of people mocked him. Even if you found his eccentricities charming, you probably cracked your share of jokes about them. Here's Matt Labash, who profiled the guy 14 years ago and clearly enjoyed the experience, reacting yesterday to Traficant's death:

Traficant…died as he lived: crushed beneath the weight of The Machine. A tractor he was driving rolled over on him.

The line is both tasteless and funny, not unlike the deceased. The congressman himself might have gotten a chuckle out of it: Like all the great flamboyant political figures, he was self-aware enough to be in on the joke. "Why would you want to do a piece on a jackass like me?" he asked Labash back in 2000. "Though," he added, "I am at the zenith of my jackasshood, I want you to know."

Bonus links: Other Reasoners who have offered their thoughts on Traficant over the years include Jacob Sullum ("blunt, bizarre, and often hilarious"), Jeremy Lott ("a total nut job, albeit a highly amusing one"), and the anonymous elves who assembled this.

NEXT: Obama: U.S. Erred By Underestimating ISIS

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. He’s still better than Pelosi.

    1. You know, you’re right. Traficant struck me as sincere, at least as sincere as any crooked politician can be. Pelosi is just another facade manufactured to support an ideological dogma. She’s usually just boringly predictable, but she is a lot more sophisticated about bribe-taking.

      1. I meant that his recently-dead body is still more attractive and fragrant than her ‘ongoing state of zombie decomposition’, and that the sounds of gasses being released from his now inanimate corpse actually *make more sense* than the composite groans and squeaks that emanate from her piehole and are later translated as ‘policy commentary

        1. Did the Browns let you down again?


          Not that I disagree with you in the slightest.

  2. The antisemite, Jim Trafficant, is dead. He died around the Jewish high holy days, too. It is sort of the final blowing of the shofar. Of course, there are plenty more antisemites from where Trafficant came from. Heck! Look at you guys!

    1. Why don’t you save us all some time, and only post when you think someone’s not an anti-Semite.

      1. I’m half jewish! (sort of)

        So shame on half of you!!! or…. i mean… uh, HALF OF ME IS DISGUSTED WITH ALL OF YOU.

      2. But then he’d never post at all. See, nobody likes Underzog and nobody ever has. And since it can’t possibly be because he has the personality and aroma of baker’s yeast, it must be that they hate him for being Jewish.

        1. Some people spend their whole lives looking for something or someone to blame for why no one likes them. Zoggy has his excuse baked right in. It keeps him from having to reflect on his gross personality disorders.

          1. And if anyone has ever seen the youtube videoes of that meeskite grosser foss chazzer hocking all of us in chinik with his horrific piano playing, you’d know how “gross” his personality disorders are.

            1. Wow, Google Translate just fails with Yiddish.

              1. meeskite = ugly
                grosser = big
                foss = fat
                chazzer = pig
                hocking = banging
                chinik = China (as in housewares)

    2. What the hell are you talking about? Who around here is anti-semitic?

      1. It’s like his meds kick in once every couple years, and here he is.

      2. His Muslim boyfriend just broke up with him. A real shame too, I thought those crazy kids were going to make it all the way to altar.

      3. Its the bashing of the neocons that bothers him I’m sure.

    3. “Underzog”

      Speaking of, often after a long day at work, my underzog is chafed and raw. I was wondering if any of you had any suggestion on how to avoid that.

  3. The most important thing about Traficant was that hair. I remember Mike Trivisonno’s show in Cleveland after he was released – endless lulz. Traficant is one of those gifts that keeps on giving.

    RIP, you crazy old bastard.

    1. Traficant was great. Congress needs at least one crazy old crotchety coot.

      RIP Beam me up, you crazy old bastard.

      1. So who took up the mantle after Ron Paul retired?

  4. OT:
    Regulation Gap Crisis!
    “Feds lag as drone use explodes”
    “FAA regulations are the ‘finger in the dike’ of tech companies’ massive expansion of drone programs.”…..783940.php

    Heaven forbid something is used without being regulated!

  5. OT: Fox News idiots go into conniption fits over Ezekial Emanuel’s wish that he dies at age 75.

    The hosts of “The Five” sounded off on the comments, which Dana Perino blasted as “outrageous.”

    “He’s basically saying to anyone over 75 that you are a burden,” Greg Gutfeld stated.

    Kimberly Guilfoyle charged Emanuel with devaluing human life, basically saying, “You have an expiration, like a carton of milk or a 12 pack of eggs.”

    Watch more above.

    1. I totally trust your shortened link.

    2. Is it ‘nuts’ to say that a person is a moron for suggesting “death is better” because its ‘less of a burden to our invasive bureaucracy’?

      please to clarify, oh Wisest of Ass-Dildoes

    3. I’m even more progressive then Zeke on this issue. I hope he dies at 65.

      1. +1 Early Painful Death

    4. So you like the Zekester want to die at 75 I have a few suggestions.

  6. For a time I’m not sure you coukd become a politician in Youngstown if you weren’t crooked. Maybe he was upset that the Youngstown Jewish mafia didn’t give him the same support as the Italian mafia. Of course the two groups weren’t exactly friends back in the day. I wouldn’t be surprised if that explained his anti-Israel remarks more than anything else.

  7. I pumped gas once next to him when he was in congress, he was wearing coveralls and had his beat up old avanti loaded with trash.

    1. He drove an Avanti?

      Damn, between the hair and that car… that dude was a freaking *stud*.

      I hope he carried a .44 colt python, and had a tattoo of elvis. The man would be *my hero*

      1. He’s like the Biden of congressmen.

        1. NO WAY!

          Biden is a used car salesman.

          Traficant was a *Repo Man*

      2. The Colt Python wasn’t a .44.

        Also, is Dumpster back? Someone posting under a Dunphy tag in the Friday PM links, but the poster used a lot of punctuation and appropriate capitalization and none of the undecipherable initialism that was the hallmark of our Dumpster.

        I’m guessing it was actually Tulpa, but whatever.

        1. Tulpa is posting as “Lt Womack”.

        2. I use voice to text now instead of typing.

          So my current posts include such oddities as punctuation and capitalization.

          What may appear to be weird typos are actually voice to text mistranslation

          Has bought

          I just said ‘Hezbollah’ but got the above translation

          Thus my current posts still have the same wit genius insightfulness and all the great awesome fact-based analysis to counter any reason anticop brigade constitutional criminal procedural and statistical ignorance but they look different

          I hope that helps strip away at least some of the wall of idiocy the obstructs your view of reality


          1. You can’t spell “The artist known Dunphy” without “we shit on truth”

            1. Ah, the ignorati spouts

              Do not worry. You and your ill shall not dissuade me from the righteous path – illuminating the dark areas of anticop bigotry, legal ignorance, and fellow traveling circle jerk smugness


              1. Welcome back. Tony has been wearing thin.

          2. Good to know Dumpster, off to reasonable with you.

            1. Well that’s handy cause I ain’t fucking selling it. It’s a fact – identify the quote

              I will remain here educating the ignorant and giving homage to all the great heroes in law-enforcement

              Maybe one day we will see a return of The Balko and thus some intelligent cop criticism to complement my intelligent cop praise criticism and analysis


              1. The return of Cesar as Dunphy.

            2. I agree. For all his flaws (and they seemed myriad), the real Dunphy at least seemed to be trying to argue in good faith. My impression was that he genuinely believed he was a libertarian. And compared to his fellows in law enforcement, he probably had reason to believe he was.

              1. “the real dunphy” had no interest in posting huge screeds unless they were about specific tete-a-tetes with other people.

                He didn’t spam the list with gibberish (at least the real one). He did argue, but only about specific legal topics and situations. (e.g. see the one about police abuse of Occupy protesters c.2012)

                This is troll mary trying to endlessly derail everything and start flame wars.

                Its not what it says… its why.

      3. The Python is a .357 Mag. If you want the Colt .44 Mag, you want the Anaconda.

        1. It warms my heart that there are at least a few areas where one can expect accuracy and insightfulness here in hit-and-run

          The above post is a good example of what I’m talking about

        2. As long as its named after a snake, i’m good

        3. I don’t speak colt. I have a model 29 (nickle, 6.5) from the ’70s heyday. Nobody feels lucky looking at it but me.

          1. I don’t feel lucky paying for the ammo, though, much less finding it….

      4. The colt python is chambered in .357.

        The 44 mag is the Anaconda.


  8. Traficante wasn’t guilty of a crime-crime, he was guilty of the crime of pissing off the establishment. IOW he went to prison for doing the same shit that all politicians do.

  9. Wait, did anyone else here know Greta Van Susteren is a Scientologist?

    1. A clamhead??

    2. Yeah, I knew.

    3. Nope I did not know that. Should I really care?

    4. Yes

      It’s a piece of useless information thus I feel obligated to know about it

  10. For the record: I told you it was Mary.

    1. If you are referring to me this is just yet another example of the inability of the ignoranthere to use reading comprehension analysis commonsense observation etc. tocome to a correct conclusion

      Mary has never demonstrated any knowledge of constitutional law criminal law criminal procedure etc.

      And I continue as I have done before to spank the ignorant in nearly every post that references such things as cop criticism invariably intersects with these concepts

      There was a time in other words the era of Balko when there was a much higher level of understanding and discussion of these things

      He managed to guide the ignorant keep them in line and even piss them off such as when he and I came to the correct conclusion about the BART shooting


      1. Thanks Mary

        1. Smooches.

          By the way this is as good a time as any to paste something in here for the education of the reason ignorant

          I often opine that a UOF to include a shooting appears justified or unjustified or that I have no idea or that I am leaning towards one or the other, etc

          I have found that implicit in the ignorant rebuttal (even when I find force UNjustified) is a showing that the anticop bigot does not understand what justified MEANS.

          Here you go. Note that anybody with understanding of con law crim law legal principles etc etc will understand this and embrace this is do my defence attorney friends

          1. To say a use of force is justified is not a statement about cosmic Justice. It does not mean that the use of force is something I would have chosen to have done giving the same set of facts and circumstances being known to me in the same situation. It does not mean the choice to use force in the manner it was done was a good or a bad moral decision. It does not mean one necessarily agrees or disagrees with the underlying ruleset that one has to apply in judging that particular use of force. It does not mean that the person ‘deserved’ that use of force since use of force is never appropriately judged with that consideration in mind ever. A mentally ill man who with no malice whatsoever thanks a realistic looking fake gun at a police officer does not deserve to be shot. Force always must be viewed from a process angle in terms of justification and it’s never a question of whether the recipient of the force has any no moral responsibility whatsoever

            1. And that’s the problem with many cops. Justified by a cop means something totally different than justified by a human being.

              1. No it means that justified is a determination of process and based on rule of law in an imperfect world with imperfect knowledge

                There is ample room to discuss whether the use of force is moral or prudent or any of a dozen other questions one can ask about the use of force and independent of whether it’s a cop or a noncop

                Those are simply different questions that only the ignorant such as here will conflate

                If Johnny homeowner uses force and I see that force appears justified I am not making a moral determination

                This has nothing to do with the police versus nonpolice has everything to do with defining terms and understanding what those terms mean to educated people who have to agree on definitions before coming to conclusions

            2. This is equally true regardless of who was applying the force whether they are a police officer or not a police officer.

              Force can be unjustified and yet not be criminal. Any time force is criminal it is unjustified but it is not the case that any time force is unjustified it is always criminal

              Furthermore whether force is or isn’t criminal is tangential to whether there is sufficient evidence to believe that force is or isn’t a criminal.

              It is possible that if one knew all the facts one would know that the use of force was criminal however it’s not uncommon whether the Force user is a cop or not They they will get away with a criminal use of force simply because there is not enough evidence to conclude it is criminal.

              In my state the state has a burden to disprove self defence in any case where force is used and that becomes a question whether it’s a homeowner or a cop. Especially in a system where it is a fundamental underlying concept that it is better that 10 guilty men go free than one innocent man is convicted, it is the reality that people will get away with committing crimes involving force in a substantial number of occasions

              1. So when I or any educated person who understands what the term means says a use of force appears justified or appears unjustified, it means the following and only the following:

                A use of force is justified if based upon the facts and circumstances reasonably relied on by the person applying force, and that includes what they observe, what they reasonably rely on from others based upon those persons reasonably perceived veracity and basis of knowledge, what they reasonably believe about the person they are using force against, that the decision to use force in the manner used is consistent with constitutional case law decisions, State law (const. And criminal) , etc. if done by an on duty police officer dept policy is also relevant in that it can be more restrictive then what the officeris allowed to do under constitutional law. In most cases I will have no knowledge of the officers department policy so I’m not judging it in that regards

                1. To give an example of deptrestrictions I once had a recruit I was training that had come from Bellevue police department. Her former department placed restrictions on certain uses of force that my department did not

                  Thus there would be circumstances where she would be justified in using deadly force as an officer in my department where she would have been unjustified under dept policy in her former dept

                  This is the similar concept in regards to states in that states can extend additional protections to people versus their protections under the federal constitution but cannot take away federal protections

                  In my state an officer searching a garbage can if It was left it in the middle of a public street would be unjustified in that search

                  Under federal law that would not be a violation of the fourth Amendment so an FBI agent justifiably searches that garbage can in my state as long as he used the evidence in federal court it’s admissible

      2. “ignoranthere”

        Voice to text eh? Fail.

        I take it back – Cesar wouldn’t have made that mistake. This is a much lower grade troll.

      3. Mary has never demonstrated any knowledge of constitutional law criminal law criminal procedure etc.

        What a coincidence.

  11. Thus my current posts still have the same wit genius insightfulness and all the great awesome fact-based analysis to counter any reason anticop brigade constitutional criminal procedural and statistical ignorance but they look different

    Call it what you want, shit still stinks. And so do you.

    1. I’m still a lone voice of reason (drink!) and since the sad exodus of Balko clearly the only person who has an understanding of constitutional law criminal law criminal procedure use of force etc. etc. etc.

      When it comes to peoples ridiculous analysis of same as relate to allege police brutality here it reminds me of a Jezebelian discussing firearms rights


      1. Ok, I still have to slog through long tedious posts, still have the bragging and the hung-ho shit, but you seem a bit unhinged….more so than before.

        I don’t remember you claiming before that you are always right and everyone else is ignorant and always wrong.

        Ya’ know, mental illness generally gets worse with age.

        1. and the hung-ho

          I’m trying to figure out whether that’s a John-level typo, or a very subtle joke.

          1. The difference between myself and the anticop bigots who make specious mental illness claims is that I actually on several occasions have had to pass psychological screening this weather as part of an application process or after shooting events etc. where we always get psychologically screen before return to duty

            I am certainly not always right but when it comes to matters of police use of force and you compare my analysis to the average reason bigot’s analysis I am almost always right . The bigots here don’t even understand the very basic requirements needed such that they don’t even have arguments to dismiss they just have emotional counterfactual assertions without evidence

            I can think of many people I may disagree with on various cop issues but who come to their conclusions from a standpoint of rationality and understanding and I have immense respect for them

            I would jump up-and-down with glee if Balko was still here

            1. Another voice to text as above

              ‘Weather’ not whether

              It’s generally too much of a pain to correct them so if I have to suffer the slings and arrows of the ignorant bigots who will use these mistranslations to somehow try to make claims of superior intelligence so be it

              If I can help an insecure stupid person feel a little bit better about themselves hey it’s a fair cop

  12. “understanding of constitutional law criminal law criminal procedure use of force etc. etc. etc.”

    Not a mention of the human morality involved, just the system of loopholes used to circumvent it.

    Mere mortals don’t have the luxury of being investigated and prosecuted (or, mostly not) by their friends whom they have been making cases with and will continue to, after everything blows over. Must be nice.

    1. Yes. If we held them to the same standards as we are held to they would nearly all be in prison. If we behaved the way they do they would all be getting smoked on sight.

      Judge – “Why did you shoot the cop?”

      Shooter – ” I feared for my life”

      Judge – “Why?”

      Shooter – ” He had a gun.”

      1. Judge – “Why did you shoot the cop?”

        Shooter – ” I feared for my life”

        Judge – “Why?”

        Shooter – ” He had a gunlooked scary and I was fwightened.”


        1. Alternate FTFY

          udge – “Why did you shoot the cop?”

          Shooter – ” I feared for my life”

          Judge – “Why?”

          Shooter – ” He had a gunwas black/Mexican/a scary redneck and I was fwightened.”


          1. I find it typical here that the anticop bigots conflate rule of law and civil rights with ‘loopholes’

            You share similarities with hard-core progressives and even fascists or communists who desire revolutionary justice etc.

            With revolutionary justice you don’t have to worry about little niceties like rule of law civil rights rules of evidence etc. you can just string up those who upset you

            It’s pretty telling how often the reason bigots criticize basic civil rights rule of law due process etc. when it comes to cops

            Just as hard-core feminist will give a pass to a rapist if he’s a helpful Democrat and will be willing to throw away rule of law evidence burden of proof etc. if the offender has allegedly harmed someone’s womanhood

            Anticop bigots are among the first to celebrate mob rule kangaroo court tactics guilt until proof of innocence and result analysis over process analysis as long as it’s a cop being strung up

      2. Sorry, I missed “Why did you shoot the cop?”

        What I was responding to was “Why did you shoot the copperp?” addressed to some cop.

        1. The assumption in the judges question being that if he got shot by a cop he must have been guilty of something.

  13. since the sad exodus of Balko

    All I can say is that anyone who defends the level of police misconduct and/or incompetence in this country as much as you do has a hell of a nerve invoking the name of Radley Balko.

    1. Balko uses actual evidence and understands the issues

      As do I. I very often agree with him. He is doing gods work

      The perfect example was the BART shooting when every single anticop bigot here was calling it murder and no way possible anything less

      Balko and I because facts matter saw that the specific version of manslaughter charged was clearly appropriate

      He and I are both seeking try justice and that police be held accountable

      Bless him

      And fuck the ignorant bigots hth

      1. Nice try Mary, lmao.

        1. Smooches hth

  14. Is that a tribble sitting on his head?

  15. my best friend’s sister-in-law makes $72 an hour on the computer . She has been unemployed for seven months but last month her check was $15830 just working on the computer for a few hours. try this out ….


Please to post comments

Comments are closed.