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Traficant: Master of the disguise

Published: Sun, September 13, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

By Bertram de Souza

The mug shots of James A. Traficant Jr. aren’t meant to highlight the fashion sense of the former congressman turned criminal. Rather, they are a commentary on the devious mind of a man whose life is and has long been a disguise. Everything Traficant does is designed to hide the truth.

From his appearance Thursday night on Greta Van Susteren’s show on Fox — his first formal interview since his release from federal prison — to his attendance last Sunday evening at a “Welcome Home Jimbo” party in Boardman, the goal was the same: Make people forget why he was sentenced to prison for eight years by a federal judge in Cleveland after a jury trial.

The three mug shots are an illustration of his strategy. In 2002, during the trial and while still a member of Congress representing the 17th District, Traficant had his trademark hairpiece and dressed in his much publicized outfits of bell bottoms, white or blue dress shirts with collar clasps and skinny ties. That was the Jim Traficant the people of the Mahoning Valley knew from way back when. He dressed that way when he was sheriff of Mahoning County from 1980 to 1984, when he successfully defended himself against federal criminal charges of racketeering, bribery and tax evasion in 1983, and when he ran for Congress in 1984.

In Washington, his refusal to don the uniform of Capitol Hill — pin-striped suits, white shirts, power ties — bolstered his folk hero image. It was intentional. His bell-bottom trousers were an effective distraction for some of the outrageous statements he made on and off the floor of the House.

After 17 years on Capitol Hill, during which he became politically invincible in his congressional district, Traficant was nabbed by the feds for using his public office for personal gain and was hit with 10 criminal counts. He defended himself, but unlike 1983, he lost.

And as he was booked into the federal prison, his hairpiece was removed. Thus, for seven years and a month, James A. Traficant Jr. was without his disguises.

The mug shot of him on Sept. 2, the day he was released from prison in Rochester, Minn., showed him au naturel — from his shoulders up. Indeed, his dress for the occasion was a T-shirt and shorts that came down to his knees. He also had on white knee-length stockings and tennis shoes.

But just four days later, he appeared at the party at Mr. Anthony’s banquet hall in Boardman — and it was the Jimbo of old.

The third mug shot shows the hairpiece — a lighter colored one to match his real hair that had turned white in prison — and the round-framed glasses. He also was dressed the way he did when he was in Congress and when he was defending himself in federal court.

Why? To disguise the fact that he is an ex-con who holds no public office and has no claim to any political high ground.

Of course, he made reference to his time behind bars when he spoke to the 1,200-plus supporters who attended the celebration. But even then he disguised the 85 months by tossing out the old excuses: I was framed; I was the target of a grand conspiracy; I was the victim of lies told by individuals who were threatened by the federal government if they didn’t say things that were not true.

Disguised life

His appearance on Fox Thursday night was a continuation of his disguised life. He went to prison, he said, because the Jewish lobby in this country had it in for him.

Jim Traficant, the champion of the underdog, served notice that he’s back — with guns blazing.

He made a good appearance on television — and that disguised a truth about Jim Traficant that long-time observers have known: He uses a lot of words but says nothing.

With bated breath Van Susteren asked him the big question: Are you going to run for Congress again?

Traficant replied in classic fashion: There’s a 50-50 chance I’ll run.

If only he would. Then he’d find out that time has passed him by.


1bobhogue(102 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

I agree completely.

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2captainlinger(647 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

"everything traficant does is designed to hide the truth." during the interview, traficant made the comment that the newspaper has nothing good to say about him. mr. de sousa, seems like you just proved him truthful.

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3Tugboat(759 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

Out in West Texas, an oxymoronic weather phenomenon known as a "dry rainstorm" often occurs. It's particularly tough on farmers. These storms build with all of the tell-tale signs of a downpour headed toward the farmers' fields-- dark clouds on the horizon and lightning that flares like a pinball machine, followed by the promising clap and rumble of rolling thunder. But then--no rain. The clouds, lightning, and thunder blow right over the area, yet they deliver not one drop of the nurturing water the farmers are desperate to have.
This hard experience is why you'll sometimes hear farm folks use a cautionary expression when others have high expectations that something good is about to happen. "I hope so," they'll say, "but remember--thunder ain't rain."

Again the fans forget about the envelopes of money he demanded of his own staff, the taxes he didn't pay, and the political clout he traded for gravel and contractor muscle on his horse farm?

Traficant = a 'dry rainstorm'

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4UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

Welcopme home Jombo. Time for you to return to congress and do it in 2010!!!

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5block50(128 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

You summed it up beautifully, Mr de Sousa. I voted for him before, and I now regret it. Time has passed him by. And I, for one, will never again vote for this unstable ex-con who went to prison for betraying the trust of the people for a few bucks and some power. He betrayed us. Period. And we should all turn away from him. Mr. Traficant and the 'tin foil hat' crowd seem made for each other.

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6captainlinger(647 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

Tugboat, are you referring to our arena football team?

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7ytownLADY79(26 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

Another Traficant article?!? Surprise! Surprise! Can I just cancel the Sunday Vindy?!

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8Cassie(88 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

Bertram, give it a rest! I am starting to envision you as frothing at the mouth and chewing on a carpet because you are so frustrated that people are not stoning Jim Traficant and driving him out of town. Actually, you should be sharing your salary with him because you would certainly have written very little else in all of these years. Oh, yes, I do forget your time worn cliché, "feeding at the public trough" to describe all public employees, even the majority of dedicated workers. Your petty ad hominem attacks get more and more mean spirited as time goes on. They show more about you than about Jimbo--apparently you cannot understand the concept of true friendship that does not kick people to the curb when they have problems or when it becomes opportunistic to do so. I would cancel my subscription to the Vindy, except that I believe you should keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. I remember the days when you had your own bar stool at the End of the Tunnel--you certainly have become sickenly self righteous since then.

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9Stan(9923 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

There are a few in The Valley who would vote for Jim but I don't feel that he has the support to win an election . For one his old friend JJ Cafaro who has plenty of money would use it to help any opponent that Jim ran against .

It may be time to cash in on the past . A Jim Traficant museum and art gallery would be certain to be a hit with the tourists and the locals .

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10jtamarkin(37 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

Holy spit, the End of the Tunnel...with ex-Sheriff Ed tending bar, laughing about Jimbo...oops, I digress.

Jimbo: Once a demagogue, always a demagogue? (The Jewish angle has been easy for demagogues to use for thousands of years.)

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11dominoman777(57 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

bert go home 2 ur country

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12jmpt37(43 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

GOD BLESS JIM TRAFFICANT!!!! shove it betram

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