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Jewish World Review July 29, 2002 / 20 Menachem-Av, 5762

Phil Perrier

Phil Perrier
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Consumer Reports

The end of the freak show? | In a time of warfare and economic decline Ohio Rep. James Traficant gave America the one thing it needed; a FREAKSHOW. Thank you Mr. Traficant, for teaching us to laugh again.

The whole thing was just plain weird. At various times during his testimony before the House Traficant invited the I.R.S. and the Justice Department to "kiss (my) a--," he likened the House to "an elephant eating my rectum," and he vowed to run for reelection from a prison cell. And Traficant did all of this under the protective canopy of what appears to be a dead woodchuck on his head.

Traficant indeed sports the Mother of all Bad Toupe`s. As the hearings progressed it appeared the cranial pile grew higher by the day. But then the hair was the perfect compliment to a world-class train wreck. At the end it got even weirder. To nobody's surprise Traficant was booted -- with extreme predjudice -- from the House, by a vote of 420-1. The one dissenting vote, GARY (freaking) CONDIT!!! (Doo-doo-doo-doo... "The Twilight Zone" theme song blares) Perhaps Condit did not want to risk offending a future cellmate.

Actually, Condit's vote not to expel Traficant was most likely a final farewell to all the colleagues who avoided him like an envelope full of anthrax due to the Chandra Levy case. Most alarming about the Traficant case is the ugly reality that wackjobs like Traficant are in Congress in the first place. Under normal conditions we do not hear from these guys. They pop up now and then but generally their depravity remains unknown.

Were it not for scandals we would have never known of the seediness of Traficant or Condit or Rostenkowki or packwood. One wonders how many more stone-cold freaks are walking the halls of the House and Senate. How many more of our elected leaders are involved in scams, ripoffs and general sleaziness?

Not to mention personal quirks and foibles like bad hairpieces, cross-dressing and burying headless bodies in state parks.

It appears that the only reason Traficant fell was that his greed and corruption had been so obvious for so long that efforts to ignore him became ludicrous. Among myriad offenses, Traficant is accused of taking bribes and kickbacks from his own staff and using interns to do personal work around his house. Though, to his credit, no employee has accused Traficant of any Clintonesque indiscretions with his staff. Presumably the thought of intimacy with Traficant is so repugnant that even nearsighted interns stay away.

In his own defense Traficant described a 25-year vendetta against him. Oddly, that period coincides neatly with his entire political career; as if to suggest his public life were a cruel hoax played on him by evil doers. It is probably more accurate to assume that Traficant's career has been one long practical joke on his Ohio constituents.

So what happens now? Well, Traficant will probably spend a few months in a well-appointed Federal stir, then he will receive a fat publishing advance, write a self-serving book, give corporate speeches for large fees and eventually segue into a talk radio career.

And the hair will just keep going higher.

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JWR contributor Phil Perrier is a Los Angeles-based writer and stand-up comic. Comment by clicking here.


07/03/02: Who died?
06/21/02: From death, life
04/09/02: Welcome back, Phil
03/21/02: The Hollywood Curmudgeon's Guide to the Oscars
02/15/02: Another piece of Americana bites the dust
01/18/02: I'M SPARTACUS!
12/31/01: Realistic New Year's resolutions
11/02/01: Return to narcissism with Emmys
10/19/01: White trash exchange program
10/01/01: A few shows that will not be on the fall lineup
09/25/01: What's important
09/20/01: A sleeping giant awakes

© 2002, Phil Perrier