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Jim Traficant's case: The right to be judged by hypocrites

By Paul M. Weyrich
web posted July 22, 2002

Oh how pious they look, those judges of Congressman Jim Traficant.

Jim Traficant

Traficant is rude, unkempt, threatening and politically incorrect. Too bad it isn't remembered that for a couple of decades he told the truth. He was humorous. Sometimes he was angry. He reflected the anger of the American people.

He dared to go after the IRS. One of his proposals was accepted by the Republicans, and the IRS has never forgiven him. He says his legal troubles are payback. I have no way of knowing that. His efforts at proving that have failed.

The federal government had to move his trial out of his congressional district because if they didn't, most likely he would have been declared not guilty. While the man has opponents, he is much beloved in his home area. To the voters there, Jim Traficant is someone they can relate to. He is one of the guys.

But he is too much for the Congress. The House Ethics Committee voted unanimously to recommend expulsion. That has happened only a couple of times since the civil war. Congress tried to expel Adam Clayton Powell, but the voters in Harlem sent him back to Washington anyway. Never mind that he spent little time on the House floor. He was another example of someone who was wildly popular at home, but an embarrassment to his colleagues.

It takes two-thirds of the entire House to expel a Member. Traficant will be so honored. The Democrats hate him because he exposed the hypocrisy of much of what they advocate. They especially want to get rid of him because he says he will vote again for Speaker Hastert instead of Dick Gephardt.

The Republicans, for the most part, want him out of office. This is not because his crimes repel them so much. Many of them have done far worse things, at least with taxpayer's money. No, they want him out because: a.) he offends them. His style doesn't play well in most GOP circles; and b.) there is a chance to elect a Republican from that seat. It is a Democratic district. But with Traficant running for re-election as an independent, albeit from prison, he will take away lots of votes from the Democrats.

True, Traficant says he will vote for Hastert for speaker. But they want someone who will vote for Tom DeLay for Majority Leader and Roy Blunt for Majority Whip and so on. Even if Traficant agreed to become a Republican, and even if the voters did send him back despite his legal difficulties, the truth is they don't want him in the Republican caucus. The man would be much too disruptive. He really comes from the wrong side of the tracks.

I didn't sit through the trial so I have no idea what kind of a case the government had against him. Whatever it was it was enough to convince jurors in Cleveland. I don't wish to belittle petty crime. And Members of Congress should be concerned about this.

I just don't like the judges who now are poised to throw Congressman Traficant out of his seat in Congress. If we still believed in the Constitution, most of them would be guilty of far greater crimes. Oh, no. We can't consider their legalized theft from the American people. Nor can we consider those who have all but advocated treason. Nor can we consider the moral turpitude of the average Congressman.

Let's put it this way. You wouldn't want your daughter to marry one. You see if he were being judged by people who were really better than he is, I would say, "Fine. Let the chips fall where they may." Instead, we will hear a lot of rhetoric about the need for the House to uphold standards. How honesty is important. How we can't have people who are a convicted felon serving in this body. It all sounds very nice. I just am not sure how those who are making this judgement can look at themselves in the mirror. Of course if your conscience has been deadened, then dumping Traficant becomes easy. He is a problem. Let's get rid of him.

Bye, bye Jim. You offended too many people too many times. The truth hurts and now is their chance to silence the truth.

Paul M. Weyrich is President of the Free Congress Foundation.

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