If I sported a hairpiece, I’d be wearing it at half-mast right about now, upon hearing that the world just grew a little less interesting. For the most colorful man who ever inhabited Congress, former Ohio Democratic Rep. James A . Traficant Jr., expired today at the age of 73. Traficant—he of the Barney Miller-era suits and conspiracy theories and “beam-me-up” one-minute floor speeches and the toupee that looked like a marmot getting electroconvulsive therapy—died as he lived: crushed beneath the weight of The Machine. A tractor he was driving rolled over on him.
I, for one, will miss him, much as I did when he went to federal prison in 2002 to serve a seven-year sentence on corruption charges. Well before Traficant became a federal inmate, I went to see him for a profile. Though we were only in each other’s company for one day, he gave me everything a profiler could want: sex (he informed me in a crowded Rayburn Building elevator that a lot of women hit on him and he takes them on out of a “responsibility to the American woman”), violence (he slapped me in the face while insisting on calling me “Kibosh” instead of “Labash,” accusing me of coming to do “a castration job”) and intimacies (he spent hours insisting that Janet Reno, whose Justice Department was then bearing down on him, was a lesbian mob puppet).
We got along so famously, that I promised/threatened to call him again. Traficant emphatically told me not to: “You ain’t gonna catch up with me no more. Don’t call me again.” But then, as a token of affection, he offered me an American flag, once flown over the Capitol. I still kept an eye on Traficant in the years that followed—as he shipped off to prison, as he started painting horses on prison cardboard and Formica and selling them on his website (beammeupart.com), as he unsuccessfully ran for Congress again upon his release, getting stomped by an old political aide, even though the creaky Rust-Belt Dem whose career presaged the Tea Party Revolution had vowed to lead the charge to abolish the IRS and repeal the 16th Amendment.
Once, many years ago, I tried to reach out to Traficant in prison, wishing to see how he was getting along, or maybe to talk horse art. But he didn’t want to be seen in his diminished, incarcerated state (he reportedly accepted no visitors). And so, I never again enjoyed his company. But I still have that flag, which I fly today, in his honor. And there’s our old piece together (included below), a snapshot of Traficant from a time when he roared like a skinny-tied lion:
Traficant, Can He? Will the crazy congressman from Youngstown kneecap the Democrats?
October 16, 2000 Vol. 6, No. 05
Of all the shots aimed at Rep. James Traficant (that he is a profane, ethically shaky, showboating vulgarian, for starters), there are none so cheap as those directed at his appearance. "It's tough being a fashion leader," the Youngstown Democrat admits. Knight-Ridder said Traficant's hair bespeaks "terminal bedhead," while the Los Angeles Times settled on a "Planet of the Apes sort of hair helmet." Washingtonian said he resembled "a creature from Lake Erie before it was cleaned up," while George speculated that his wardrobe was his way of "subtly campaigning for a pay raise."
It hardly seems fair. So when I'm permitted by Traficant's chief of staff Paul Marcone to shadow the Ohio pol for a day ("Unless he gets sick of you -- then he'll throw you out," Marcone warns), I resolve to look beyond cosmetics: to get past Traficant's kelly-green Dacron bell-bottoms, past the double-knit jacket that has held up so valiantly since its purchase during the Ford administration, past the coif that Traficant's hairdresser wife can't tame, as it makes a brisk ascent from his serrated bangs up his conical crown, stopping to rest in a Peppermint Patty-style nest of hair, which looks to be his own.
But it proves difficult extricating the man from the caricature, because, it seems, the man is the caricature. As I catch up with Traficant at the conclusion of his testimony before a Senate subcommittee, he shouts me down for being late, calls me "Kibosh" instead of "Labash," bellows to congressional passers-by that I'm there to do a "castration job," and gives me a molar-rattling goombah-style smack in the face as he inquires, "Why would you want to do a piece on a jackass like me? Though I am at the zenith of my jackasshood, I want you to know."
The attempts of defenders of Obamacare to rouse the American people in favor of the doomed monstrosity have become more desperate and bizarre. The most recent example is taking place in Florida, where the sudden death of a young uninsured woman is being cited as an indictment of the Republican-controlled state legislature for refusing to approve the Medicaid expansion so generously being offered by the feds. If the woman in question had access to federally-mandated Medicaid, they argue, she would of course have gone in for preventative screening which would have revealed her cardiac abnormality and somehow saved her life. Once again, heartless Republicans are causing the death of innocents.
In 2012, Democrats ran a well-coordinated campaign to demonize and distort pro-life candidates as anti-woman misogynists hell-bent on taking away birth control. The Republican response to this line of attack consisted mostly of pivoting away to focus on “jobs” and the “economy.” With rare exceptions, instead of responding, GOP candidates were unwilling to answer the attacks head-on.
Echoing a report issued last month from the Kaiser Family Foundation, Ezra Klein says that the projections of significant adverse selection in the Obamacare exchange pools are vastly overblown. Indeed, Klein even claims that “the risk of a ‘death spiral’ is over.” But a closer look at Klein’s reasoning—laid out in an eleven-point blog post—should leave readers unconvinced.
One August afternoon in 1999, my parents and I drove to a farm in Leesburg, Virginia, to look at a litter of Jack Russell Terrier puppies we’d seen advertised. As soon as we arrived at the breeder’s house, we were confronted by Bunny, the long-legged mother of the pups. She was jumping in place, and for the entire time we visited, she never stopped jumping, up to three feet in the air. We should have known what we were in for.
It must be one of those inversions of this age of the media that the issues raised by the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia have faded into the background, while the main attention has been drawn to the screening of this story by the liberal media. But even more curious has been screening that has taken place within the conservative media: Dr.
A new investigative video shows a Washington, D.C.-based abortion doctor admitting that if a baby is born alive in his clinic after a failed abortion attempt he would let the baby suffocate on fluid in the child's throat or lungs.
CBS reports this morning that witnesses are saying "that there was never an anti-American protest outside of the consulate [in Benghazi, Libya]. Instead, they say, it came under planned attack. That is in direct contradiction to the administration's account of the incident."
"What's clear," the CBS reporter concludes, "is that the public won't get a detailed account of what happened until after the election."
On June 19, 1981 a vigorously healthy Justice Potter Stewart resigned from the Supreme Court at the age of 66. “I've always been a firm believer in the principle that it’s better to go too soon than to stay too long. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I wanted to have an opportunity to spend more time with my wife, Andy, and hopefully, with our children and grandchildren while I was still relatively young and healthy,” Stewart said. Stewart died suddenly only four years later, at age 70, so he and his family must have been especially grateful for those last years.
"In lapidary inscriptions," said Dr. Johnson, "a man is not under oath." Still, I have been a little startled by the Princess Diana-style reaction to the death of Steve Jobs. The Internet has been weighted down with lachrymose tributes; even the mainstream press is given over to extended compliments. Bouquets of flowers have been deposited at the entrance to Apple stores, accompanied by heartfelt handwritten notes to the deceased.