Beam me up, Mr. Speaker: James Traficant is back!
We'll be honest. We dig his haircut. And who hasn't missed his leisure suits?Out of prison but perhaps not out of northeastern Ohio's heart, former Rep. James Traficant is back. With a vengeance? We don't know.
But he wants back in. Released from federal prison last year after serving seven years on corruption charges, the congressman known for ending his floor speeches with "Beam me up, Mr. Speaker" filed petitions Monday to run as an independent back in his old stomping grounds.
He's got a message that could sell. He told the Associated Press Monday: "If you work for the IRS, start looking for a job."
That's if he can get his old job back. Something his hometown area newspaper doesn't seem to relish:
It would be fun to have Traficant on the campaign trail, peppering him with questions that he obviously doesn’t want to answer.
On the other hand, Traficant would be doing the Mahoning Valley a big favor by not running this year. His candidacy will dredge up the region’s putrid political history and will turn the state and national spotlight on us -- and not in a good way.
The paper has a point. Traficant is no angel. He was only the second member kicked out of Congress since the Civil War. And the vote to boot him was 420-1. His only friend? Gary Condit, who as NPR's Ken Rudin reminds us: "had his own set of problems."
That being said, some of his floor statements were -- as Chris Farley used to say -- awesome.It was just over 14 years ago that Traficant delivered a speech for the ages. No, it probably doesn't rank up there with President Kennedy's bold challenge to reach the moon or President Reagan's "tear down this wall" address, but it was one worth noting.
Singling out the Department of Agriculture's Environmental Quality Incentives Program for questionable spending, Traficant said:
After years of studies and reports, and after hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars, the Department of Agriculture has come to several conclusions. No 1: Big farm animals produce more manure than small farm animals.
And No. 2: Manure stinks. Beam me up, Mr. Speaker!
200 million dollars to determine that manure stinks. I think these environmentalists over at the Department of Agriculture have been smelling too many methane fumes...
You can watch the speech below. Extra bonus: Someone added in a laugh track.
-- Jimmy Orr
Photo: James Traficant. Credit: Associated Press