During the 1960s, when I was a young priest, the city of Newark suffered from a massive fire that destroyed an entire city block. Newark firefighters responded in force, but it wasn’t enough. Emergency responders from neighboring municipalities came to help. One of those was the Bloomfield Fire Department. As flames ripped through buildings, it was apparent that the Bloomfield firefighters were outmatched. Yet they stood their ground and fought back the blaze, side by side, with the other firefighters.
That incident seared a vivid image in my mind that I later mentioned during a Sunday sermon at Sacred Heart Parish. Apparently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation got wind of my sermon and had a problem with it. Two FBI agents soon paid a visit to the church pastor and accused me of being a communist. They also informed the pastor that the FBI had a file bearing my name. This was the frightening reality of life during the McCarthy era.
Let me be clear, some things haven’t changed with the FBI. While there are no longer witch hunts to expose communists or communist sympathizers, the Bureau’s actions have put many Americans ill at ease. I never trusted them, period.
I was gravely dismayed by FBI Director James Comey’s actions 11 days before an extraordinarily critical presidential election, when he reported that the FBI had relaunched its investigation into the email controversy surrounding Hillary Clinton. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid pointed out that Comey may have violated the Hatch Act, a federal law passed in 1939, by making a dramatic announcement about the investigation in the eleventh hour of a fiercely contested race.
I stand by Hillary Clinton in her response to Comey’s letter to Congress, which blindsided her campaign and undoubtedly influenced a number of voters: “The American people deserve to get the full facts immediately,” she said in October.
What I want to see is a studied biopsy of the election. Reports have trickled out but what I believe we need is a deep analysis of why Americans voted for Trump. Certainly, Hillary Clinton’s campaign suffered from controversies surrounding the Clinton Foundation, but we deserve more answers.
Also, Congress is badly broken and in need of an overhaul. In my opinion, lawmakers have become far too comfortable and the needs of the American people have been ignored. When politicians are constantly revving up the campaign machine, they are beholden to funders rather than their constituents. Thus, I strongly believe that we must set term limits for both the House and Senate. It’s time that legislators stop cruising by on unlimited terms on the taxpayer’s dime. That’s what makes a democracy work.