Ed Driscoll

RIP Former Rep. James Traficant

“James A. Traficant Jr., colorful Ohio congressman expelled by House, dies at 73,” the Washington Post reports:

[Traficant], an iconoclastic nine-term Ohio populist in the U.S. House of Representatives who was convicted on corruption charges in 2002, becoming the second member of Congress to be expelled since the Civil War, died Sept. 27 at a hosptial [sic] in Youngstown, Ohio. He was 73.

A family spokeswoman, Heidi Hanni, confirmed his death to reporters. The former congressman was injured in a tractor accident on his farm near Greenford, Ohio, on Tuesday. A former aide told reporters in Ohio that he apparently had a heart attack while driving the tractor, which overturned inside a building and left the former congressman trapped underneath.

Mr. Traficant, a maverick Democrat who found his own path politically and seemingly in everything else, was one of the most deliberately outrageous members of Congress in history. Glib and voluble, he was known for wearing cowboy boots, skinny ties and out-of-date polyester suits and for a bouffant mound of hair that seemed to defy gravity.

Reporters outdid themselves in trying to describe Mr. Traficant’s pompadour — and to determine whether it was real. In the words of the Los Angeles Times, it was a “Planet of the Apes sort of hair helmet” or, as Washingtonian magazine put it, “a creature from Lake Erie before it was cleaned up.”

As the Post goes on to note:

Mr. Traficant, who spent virtually his entire adult life working for the government in one capacity or another, often said he loved America but hated the government. He once admitted that an incendiary comment he made about the “political prostitutes” in Congress was out of line.

“I want to apologize,” he said, “to all the hookers of America for associating them with the United States Congress.”

Heh. The very definition of “a character,” Traficant, via his populist Congressional rants, which always ended with some variation of this phrase (I’m paraphrasing from here), “What kind of craziness is this? Beam me up, Mr. Speaker!”, became perhaps the only Democrat Rush Limbaugh could cotton to during the early days of his national radio show, which brought Traficant’s zaniness to a national audience. RIP.