James Traficant Remembered for Charisma, Character, Crimes

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After his death, people are remembering Jim Traficant not just because he was a nine-term Congressman convicted of large-scale corruption and expelled from Congress, but because of his bombastic speeches and colorful antics.

He was denounced as a “scoundrel” and a “master of the outrageous,” with a baffling fashion sense and a “bouffant mound of hair.” In 2002, Traficant ran for Congress again…this time from prison. One of his former aides defeated him and still holds his seat – Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan.

"We speak well of those who have passed, but he presented a number of challenges," Ryan said.

Appearing on 90.3’s Sound of Ideas show, Ryan said Traficant’s famous, funny tirades on the House floor showed him at his best and worst. Fans loved how the speeches seemed to slice through bureaucratic absurdity toward a simple truth. But Ryan said the humor could obscure a more complex reality.

"So it’s funny, but the reality of it is, it’s hurting our ability to try to figure out and fix a problem," Ryan said. "And that’s him in a nutshell."

Despite his widely-recognized flaws, many say Traficant skillfully channeled the frustrations of working-class Ohioans as manufacturing declined.

Ryan ranked Traficant’s charisma with Bill Clinton’s, and said his instant connection with constituents was something all politicians strive for.

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