America’s Criminal Class

Mark Twain famously wrote, “It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.”
Well, if James A. Traficant Jr. gets (re)elected to Congress the support for Twain’s contention will certainly increase. On September 2 of last year Traficant was released after serving a seven year sentence in federal prison for racketeering, bribery, obstruction of justice and tax evasion.
Whether or not Twain was correct about Congress in the late nineteenth century may be open to debate. Give or take several exceptions, I don’t really think it is true today. But being ousted from Congress for unethical conduct is a rather difficult achievement. Traficant is only the second person since the Civil War to have this honor. I certainly hope the good folks of the 17th Congressional District in northeast Ohio choose not to elect this criminal. Our daughter lives and works in that district. I doubt she’ll be voting for him.
The Twain quotation, which he attributes to “Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar,” is from an epigraph at the beginning of chapter eight of Following the Equator.

One thought on “America’s Criminal Class”

  1. Although I am right leaning (actually, libertarian — small L — which would be somewhere in between) James Traficant was one of my (very very few) favourite Democrats in congress (I use to watch C-SPAN obsessively in the ’90s). He was always entertaining (him and “B-1 Bob” Dornan). I was sad to see him go to prison and hoped he would return one day, and my opinion on his criminal activity was basically “And which congressman does not have a list of reasons s/he should go to prison? James will just be replaced with someone who should be in jail, anyway, so difference does that make?” A little cynical, I know, but sometimes — such as when dealing with the US Congress — being cynical is just being a realist.

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