TARGET: TRAFICANT (2005) by Michael Collins Piper
Democrat Jim Traficant's congressional career is remembered for two
reasons. First, he had an unusually blunt speaking style that was not
always welcome on the House floor. Second, he was expelled by his
colleagues from his position following an investigation by the House
ethics committee. This book by Michael Collins Piper suggests that
Traficant was ousted for stepping on the wrong feet. There is also a
bonus section on R. Budd Dwyer, the infamous Pennsylvania state
Treasurer who committed suicide on live television.
begin, I will admit that I am a fan of Traficant although I disagree
with some of his positions including the national sales tax (he is
correct about the IRS however). I would have voted for him if I lived
in his district.
The best parts of the book are those where we
hear directly from Traficant himself, such as his famous speeches and
criticisms of the federal government. Of course much of this
information is publicly available, but this book includes excerpts from
an old interview and some clarification on various political positions.
There is even a speech by Dr. Ron Paul stating that while he believes
that Traficant is guilty of some unethical behavior, he was not given a
fair trial. Only Gary Condit voted against Traficant's expulsion, but a
handful of other representatives did abstain from voting on HR 495,
including David Bonior, Harold Ford, Dennis Hastert, John Hostettler and
It is clear that Traficant and the Justice Department
had bad blood for years and that many of the charges against him were
either exaggerated or tacked onto minor offenses to make the colorful
congressman seem like a real menace. Mr. Traficant himself pointed out
that congress didn't vote to expel the two representatives in the 1983
congressional page sex scandal (they were censured) and that was a much
worse crime than what he was accused of.
Michael Collins Piper
does a decent job dissecting the various charges against Traficant and
describing how Judge Lesley Wells and the House ethics committee never
let his side be heard, but he does not really prove his central thesis
which is that the central force behind Jim's removal was a "pro-Israel
clique" (page 20). Piper believes that Traficant's defense of John
Demjanjuk's right to a fair trial is what really got him in hot water.
Piper accuses Michael Chertoff (Assistant Attourney General at the time)
of Traficant's "political assassination" which is why he appears on the
book's cover. Anybody who is familiar with the author knows what he's
getting at, but I personally disagree with this conclusion. Traficant
was not against sending aid to Israel, he was only against sending
foreign aid in general when there was a budget deficit. He also said
that he would kill Demjanjuk himself if he were found to be guilty.
Both of these statements appear on page 78 of this book. Mr. Traficant
is not the "anti-Zionist" that Piper wants him to be, but he did
represent an often politically incorrect voice in the legislative
branch. This probably made it much easier to expel him than a typical
politician who doesn't want to rock the boat.
I have a hard time
deciding what rating to give this book. It has some good information as
well as some rote editorializing. It is also the only book published
about James Traficant that I know of. Check it out if you're curious
about the Traficant case, but watch out for the $25 cover price!