Thursday, February 4, 2010

Traficant threatens reporter with rash, promises run for Congress

After seven years without Jim Traficant's hammy, bullying comedy act, it's disturbingly fun to read about him again. So Stephanie Warsmith of the Akron Beacon Journal proved when she dropped by Tangier in Akron to see Jimbo rant at a Libertarian candidate's sparsely attended fundraiser.


Traficant sat down with the Beacon Journal ... only after railing about the newspaper not writing anything positive about him in 30 years and threatening that another negative article would result in this reporter contracting a rash in her private parts.

Sitting at Rockne's restaurant, sipping Diet Coke after Diet Coke, Traficant seemed bitter but not defeated. He wore a gray turtleneck, black dress pants and his well-known fuzzy gray toupee, which he declined to talk about.

He might run for Congress against Tim Ryan, his former Youngstown protege, or Charlie Wilson, whose district hugs the Ohio River valley. Both are Democrats. Traficant might go third-party.

''The Democrat and Republican parties have failed,'' he said. ''Both are as worthless as tits on a bullfrog.''

Laughing at Traficant these days is like laughing at Soviet kitsch: His tackiness is harmless now that he's out of power. He's a retro-fun sideshow, a VH1 I Love the '80s with one-liners instead of music (but with just as much bad hair).

''Stimulate this!'' he said at one point — his newest catchphrase.

But when he was still in Congress, shaming Youngstown, wallowing in corruption, and accepting bribes in the form of horse-farm favors, laughing at Traficant only made him stronger. The attention fed his weird cult of personality, his outlaw shtick.

So if he chases Ryan or Wilson across eastern Ohio this summer and fall, he might be worth a few more laughs -- as long as his polling numbers linger around 10 percent or so. Youngstown is smarter than Jimbo now, right?

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