Donald Trump and James A. Traficant, Jr.–Soulmates?

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traficant 2It wasn’t obvious at first, but then it dawned on me. Donald Trump and James A. Traficant, Jr., though they may be different in one sense, are very much alike. In case you don’t recall, Traficant was a Congressman from Youngstown, Ohio, who was expelled from the House in 2002.

The differences between them may be striking, but those differences are just superficial.  Down deep, these men are, well, soulmates.

trump 2

Trump is a Republican and budding independent—if he doesn’t get his way with the Republican Party. Traficant, who died in 2014, was a Democrat—sort of, anyway.  He was more renegade than party soldier.

Trump is a New Yorker who was born rich and got richer. Traficant was blue collar guy from a city that has been down on its luck since the early 1970s, when the U.S. steel industry tanked.

Trump can afford to hire a battalion of America’s best attorneys. Traficant represented himself in 1987 in a tax evasion case. And won. Trump is always dressed to the nines. Traficant always looked like he just walked out of a thrift store. Standard garb was cowboy boots, skinny ties and out-of-date polyester suits.

This is where the differences end.

To understand how these men are soulmates, we start with their photos. The first and most impressive similarity is their, um, hair. Where else can you find a hairdo from outer space like that worn by Trump and Traficant? It’s as if a small rodent is nesting on their heads. Sadly, we learned when Traficant went to federal prison in 2002 (more about that later) that his rodent-like coiffure was actually a bad toupee. He paid for that thing? Let’s hope it was a gift.

Trump is running for president. Traficant was elected to Congress in 1984 and reelected eight times.

Both are mavericks. Trump bitterly criticizes his fellow Republicans. The Republican National Committee is beside itself trying to figure out what to do about him.

Traficant so angered his fellow Democrats that toward the end of his career in Congress he was stripped of all his committee assignments. After being convicted of racketeering, bribery and fraud in 2002, he was expelled from Congress, only the fifth member of the House to earn that distinction. The RNC can only hope Trump will do something dumb enough to land him in jail.

Both men make outrageous statements and seem to thrive being on the edge. Trump questions John McCain’s status as a war hero: “He is a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”  He thinks we should “bomb the hell” out of Middle East oil fields. No need to worry about rebuilding the infrastructure afterwards, because companies like Exxon will take care of it all. Really? Only Trump would make demeaning statements about Fox newscaster Megyn Kelly—and then demand an apology from her.

Traficant called the CIA “lying, thieving, stealing nincompoops.” At an ethics hearing he said, “There are no ethics in politics. And there should be no ethics committee. It is dog eat dog. Castrate your opponent.” Apparently a Trekkie at heart, he often ended his speeches on the House floor with “Beam me up, Mr. Speaker.”

Trump is and Traficant was a populist. It’s all shoot from the hip, speak with grand, general statements, look to make the headline, resonate with voters’ emotion, skip the logic and reason. What Trump says about bombing oil fields may cause our generals to wince, but it resonates with Americans who feel our foreign policy is disjointed. No matter how awkward and clownish Traficant may have been to the rest of America, Youngstown loved him. He knew how to bring home federal money.

How did these men get this way? Look again at the hair. Seriously. At the risk of over simplifying things, it’s the hair that sets the pace for everything Trump does and Traficant did. Think about it. If you’re willing to sport a hairdo that to most people looks God-awful and is embarrassing, you have no sense of self, and nothing is off limits. Everything is fair game. You’re tone deaf to the world around you.

With Trump and Traficant, you can’t separate what’s atop the head from what goes on deep inside it.


Jack D’Aurora writes for


Also published on Medium.

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  1. Carl Heltzel  August 10, 2015

    JD –
    It is just this week (or so) that the late congressman’s wife is retiring, from her lifelong job, as a hairstylist. The obvious question as to why she did not offer to help her spouse is due either to the same ethical consideration that keeps surgeons from operating on their own family members, or, that Jim really did know the hair matters.

    What he brought back in Federal dollars, he gave up in the Valley’s reputation.


  2. A. Yannon  August 11, 2015

    I know many people who admire Trump because he is exceedingly wealthy and apparently a shrewd businessman. But Hillary is also wealthy. Trump should learn that a majority of voters are women and his statements reflect a disdain for women. She would bury him. Just as Traficant eventually got caught in a web of his own making, so will Trump in an entirely different manner. Thank you for your insights. Your columns are so much better than most editorials. By the way what do you think of the Iran treaty?

  3. Barbara Rogers  August 11, 2015

    Ha! Ha! Ha! Good comparison! Whether Donald Trump is selected as the Republican candidate or runs as an independent, it assures a Democratic victory.

  4. Charlie  August 11, 2015

    Hair today……….gone tomorrow!

  5. Jim Meaney  August 11, 2015

    Excellent Jack — you have captured the Trump essence!

  6. Dave Houze  August 11, 2015

    Slick Willie Clinton dressed to the nines. Brother Obama and his wife dress to the nines. Thank God we’re changing the rules so that miserably outfitted Mrs. Socialist Clinton cannot ever hope to get elected.

    Traficant was right about a few things. Washington is a dog eat dog environment. That however is where any comparison with Trump ends. I will again remind you that Trump has not said anything that wasn’t factual and why, all of a sudden, are all the socially conscious Fox haters on the wagon saying Kelly’s the greatest. Her question to Trump was inappropriate for a debate and designed to elicit chaos. It’s like asking the question…have you quit beating your kids? Ok, she got her wish.


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