Oddly enough this is the same face I make whenever I see any of the above three on my TV.
Very soon our area’s former Congressman, Jim Traficant will be released from jail. Traficant was convicted in 2002 of 10 charges including bribery, racketeering and tax evasion. In case you don’t remember see John Stewart here
When he is released the countries media will be descending on the Youngstown Ohio area. What the media will be hoping to see is lots of people cheering for Jim and waving, “Traficant for President “ signs. The media figures Jimbo was our representative so he must represent our values. In this case those values would be foul mouths and a tolerance for crime. Of course the majority of members of our community are good, honest and decent people that don’t want to be represented by corrupt politicians.
The media that will come are lazy and will find it easier to play to stereotypes and seek out residents that admire Traficant. These are folks who remember Traficant as the sheriff who went to jail because he wouldn’t sign foreclosure deeds on 13 homes of former steelworkers who’s plants had closed. His supporters remember he was given 100 days in jail. They tend to forget on the third day of his sentence, he agreed to sign the deeds and was released from jail. Jim Traficant may have caved in after three days but it was enough for many to think of him as a local hero. The only one who has gained more followers after being put away for three days was Jesus (just a point of reference so no ugly hate e-mails please). Those three days popularity led Sheriff Traficant to his next step (after being acquitted of bribery charges) getting elected to Congress for nine successive terms.
Traficant may have been a Democrat but he voted along with the Republicans 60% of the time. That voting record and the fact that Rush Limbaugh called him, “My favorite democrat” was enough for me to vote against him. Then there is the time I was with my family along a Veteran’s Day Parade route and he yelled at me from a parade car and said, “Hey, you look like Newt Gingrich.” I hate Newt and that just gave me one personal reason not to like Jimbo.
So, when the media comes to interview Traficant what will he say? The optimist in me hopes he will say, “I want to apologize to my community I was guilty and served my time.” I would then like to hear Jim admit that he was a political power addict and it drove him to be corrupt. I then want him to say he wants to start a center to rehabilitate other corrupt politicians. He could be a changed former politician who wants to change today’s politicians for the betterment of all.
He could do a town hall speaking tour and have conferences talking about how our representatives need to represent us not themselves and rich lobbyists. If Representative Traficant would do this he would truly represent a better future for our children, community and country. Then the media could report that the people of the Youngstown area are stronger than the steel we made and that this new “steel” is going to construct the foundation of a better nation.
America loves underdogs who are honest about their mistakes and now want to do good. I urge Rep. Traficant to be an underdog championing good not a rabid dog Hell bent on righting imagined wrongs. Jimbo I urge you to make something good of your future to give back to your community what you and so many other corrupt leaders have taken from us. When the media talks of corrupt communities Youngstown is put under the microscope for all to see. When the media comes for Jimbo’s release he has the opportunity to take the stage and say he is sorry about the past and wants to help make a better future. Then the microscope will turn into a spotlight highlighting not what was but what will be.
Yep, the above sounds naive but doesn’t a big part of optimism consist of squinting your vision focusing on the outcome? My next post will take the pessimist vision of Traficant’s release and talk about his job prospects.
Some Irish music by Ciaran Murphy
Happy Saint Paddy’s Day!
I don’t like people who are in politics for themselves and not for others. You want that, you can go into show business.”
— Elvis Presley, American rock ‘n’ roll icon (1935-1977)