You would think that, by the time a Democrat's corruption finally lands him in the federal penitentiary, there wouldn't be any question whether he was a bad guy.
You would be wrong:
He may be sitting in a Rochester, Minn., federal prison hundreds of miles from the area he served for more than two decades, but former U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant is anything but far from the minds of many Mahoning Valley residents.
The ex-congressman symbolically took center stage as more than 300 people came to the Chevrolet Centre on Saturday to attend a town-hall-style debate, "Jim Traficant: Saint or Sinner?" It focused on whether the former nine-term congressman has been good or bad for the region. ...
The two-hour forum, sponsored by vindy.com and WFMJ Channel 21, and moderated by Vindicator columnist Bertram de Souza, pitted Traficant supporter John Brown, who calls himself a political independent, against Democrat Robert Fitzer, who spoke against the former congressman. ...
Fitzer ... who was instrumental in the Mahoning County Democrats for Change movement, said Traficant took bribes from the Cleveland and Pittsburgh factions of the mob and consistently lied about his actions.
Others he took bribes from, Fitzer contended, were mall developer J.J. Cafaro and Atty. R. Allen Sinclair, a Traficant staff attorney.
"Traficant was a salesman for bribery. He took office with one hand on the Bible and one hand in your pocket," Fitzer told the audience.
Given the bizarre doings of Ohio Republicans of late, guess which side of the Trafficant issue they're on?
Uh, Alex, Bill ... when your own Ohio GOP is looking kinda sleazy, and you have here an Ohio Democrat who has been convicted and sent to federal prison for corruption, do you really think that praising and defending the Democratic crook is smart politics? Do you think any Ohio Democrats would ever say a nice word about Tom Noe or Bob Ney? Do California Democrats praise "Duke" Cunningham?
Alex Mangie, a YSU sophomore and vice president of YSU's College Republicans, praised Traficant for the infrastructure improvements and other projects he brought to the area. Last summer's two strikes at the university would probably have been resolved faster had Traficant been part of negotiations, Mangie speculated.
Another notable Republican in the audience, Dr. Bill Binning, said he thinks Traficant should no longer be in prison.
Binning, who is chairman of YSU's political science department and former longtime chairman of the Mahoning County Republican Party, said the length of Traficant's incarceration has far outweighed whatever crime he committed.
Yeah, I know, Traficant was a patriotic, centrist independent, a blue-collar populist with a wacky sense of humor -- but he was also crooked as hell. Don't you think this "debate" might have been a good forum to make the point that Trafficant illustrates why electing Democrats is not the answer to the "culture of corruption"?
When you get a clean shot, you ought to take it. That's all I'm saying.