Published July 7, 2007
Now that state Rep. Robert Hagan has said he was being sarcastic when he sent a letter to President Bush seeking a commutation of former Congressman James A. Traficant Jr.'s prison sentence, the question that arises is this: Why did Hagan do it?
The answer: Because he wanted to grab newspaper headlines and, thus, emerge from political Siberia. Ever since he lost the Youngstown mayoral race to Jay Williams, he has become a footnote: Hagan, a veteran Democratic officeholder, was beaten in the race for mayor of Youngstown by political novice, Jay Williams, who ran as an independent. Hagan will forever be known as the individual who enabled the first black to be elected mayor in the history of Youngstown.
That defeat has left the former state representative, state senator and now state representative an afterthought as far as the press is concerned.
Thus, in order to become a player again, he had to do something so dramatic that it would grab the attention of reporters. Hence, his letter to the Bush, in the wake of the president's commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence. Did Hagan really believe that a Democrat who is viewed with such disdain by Republican leaders in the state would really influence the president? Of course not.
All he wanted to do was to get back into the limelight. It must grate him every time some national publication focuses on the Youngstown 2010 plan and sings the praises of Mayor Williams.
Hagan, a student of politics, is no doubt familiar with the saying, "I don't care what you write about me, just spell my name correctly."
But why is the state representative from Youngstown seeking publicity? Because he wants to be considered a serious contender for speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives should Democrats oust the Republican majority in next year's election. And, because he wants to attend the Democratic National Convention in 2008 as a delegate for former U.S. Sen. John Edwards, who can be expected to do well in Ohio's presidential primary in March.
But the reporters who took Hagan's letter to the president at face value can be expected to hold a grudge. That's not good when your goal is political resurrection.