TRAFICANT TOWN HALL ROCKS D.C.
By Michael Collins Piper
Washington, D.C. was reeling under the impact of two consecutive blizzards— the worst storm to hit the nation’s capital in recorded history— and another storm was predicted. Yet, some 150 people still crowded into the lecture hall at the Capitol Skyline Hotel on Capitol Hill to welcome former Congressman Jim Traficant—now a weekly columnist for AMERICAN FREE PRESS—back to Washington where he once reigned as perhaps the most colorful (and certainly the most outspoken) figure in Congress during the 17 years he served in the House of Representatives.
The numbers in attendance were remarkable, considering the wintry weather, but made even more so by the fact that some 45 people who had
registered to attend did not arrive, most likely deterred by the weather.
And carefully note too that it wasn’t just a “local” audience. In fact, there were enthusiastic attendees from as far away as Washington State, California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Wisconsin, North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, Kentucky, Illinois and Michigan.
The young audience was demographically diverse but united in one thing: a concern—shared with Jim Traficant—about the future course of America and its position in the world.
The bottom line is that the big turnout confirmed something the staff of AMERICAN FREE PRESS knew instinctively: that Traficant—out of circulation for more than seven years and having been subjected to a barrage of vicious smears in the mainstream media—still remained a popular figure, respected for his no-nonsense approach to the big issues of the day.
Traficant’s appearance was a big splash with those who never before had the opportunity to meet the one man who, year after year, was voted in polls of the congressional staff-at-large as “the friendliest” and “the most likeable” member of Congress—a position it must be said, frankly, with which Traficant was not ranked by powerful special interest groups, foreign lobbies, and thugs from government agencies that objected to Traficant’s fervent opposition to federal tyranny.
While prison breaks many a man, it did not break Traficant, as his overwhelming presence in Washington made clear. However, Traficant was first to admit, in his remarks, that more than seven years in prison were rough on him in many ways. But despite this, Traficant has come back tougher and really, in some ways, more outspoken than never. Back in Washington, Traficant was in full form, a combination of the wry wit and the friendly banter, coupled with his serious concern about (and intellectual
insights into) so many issues that face the American republic.
Traficant said some have warned him that being associated with a “controversial” newspaper such as AMERICAN FREE PRESS could be injurious to any future political ambitions he might have, but, at the same time, he said, AFP was a newspaper that dared to express its views (right or wrong) and that, under no circumstances, should any American be afraid to express their views on any issue, no matter how controversial.
The situation in America today, said Traficant, calls for candor and all points of view must be heard and none suppressed. The most glaring absence from the event was that of the self-styled “mainstream” news media, particularly C-SPAN, the national cable network. C-SPAN’s absence was especially notable since C-SPAN not only helped make Jim Traficant a nationally-known name (among a congressional contingent of 535 largely unknown faces, with only a few exceptions) but also, in turn, gained many new viewers from people across the country who tuned in hoping to view Traficant’s regular colorful verbal rampages against government corruption and mismanagement.
Although C-SPAN told AFP’s coordinator for the event, Pete Papaheraklis, that they intended to cover Traficant’s speech, they pulled out at the last moment. It was obvious the word had come down “from the top” that a black-out on Traficant’s return to Washington was the order of the day.
Although it was a slow news day in snow-gridlocked Washington over a holiday weekend, C-SPAN boycotted the Traficant event.
Lest this be dismissed as a “conspiracy theory,” note that even the august New York Times, which declares itself the arbiter of “all the news that’s fit to print,” recently went out of its way to publish an editorial condemning Traficant’s potential comeback in the electoral arena.
Although the Times and other media voices—which have never been friendly to Traficant in any way—have been quick to assure folks that Traficant is old news and going nowhere, the Times—perhaps a bit schizophrenically—still felt the need to slam Traficant and throw more mud (and lies) in his direction, just to make sure that no “nice” people who follow the Times’ lead and direction might look favorably toward Traficant.
All told, Traficant’s return trip speaking engagement in the city where, in many ways, he made history, was a memorable event for those who did attend. The big question now, as Traficant himself will concur, is what will come out of it. Was this the beginning of a return to Congress for Traficant or will something even bigger emerge, perhaps the launching of an independent national political movement with Traficant as its leader? Time will tell soon enough.
A journalist specializing in media critique, Michael Collins Piper is the author of The High Priests of War, The New Jerusalem, Dirty Secrets, The Judas Goats, The Golem, Target Traficant and My First Days in the White House All are available from AFP.
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(Issue # 9, March 1, 2010)