By State Auditor Jim Zeigler
News commentators have been saying that the input of FBI Director James Comey into the presidential campaign is unprecedented. The fact is, FBI presidential campaign interference happened once before – big time.
It was 1948. I remember it well. Harry Truman had been Vice-President and became President at the death of President Franklin Roosevelt in 1945. Truman was running as the incumbent president in November 1948, opposed by Republican nominee, New York Governor Thomas Dewey. Everyone expected Truman to lose except for Truman himself.
Into the fray steps FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. He liked Dewey and disliked Truman. Hoover and his FBI dug for dirt on the Truman administration. They found some, but not as much as they expected. There were a few Communists and more Communist sympathizers working in the federal government. Most were carryovers from the Roosevelt administration.
Hoover fed this information to friendly news reporters and to the Dewey campaign.
The issue of communists in U.S. government was a modest issue in the 1948 presidential elections. It could have been a big issue, but Dewey did not want to do anything controversial. He and almost everyone else felt he had the election won, so Dewey did not want to make any mistakes. He talked about unity instead of communists in government – or any other issue.
If Dewey had chosen to actively utilize the FBI information, the outcome could have been different and Dewey may have won. But he and his campaign did not use the FBI information, and the issue of Communists in government did not develop then.
Truman won in a huge upset. For many reasons. One reason was that Dewey simply would not address any issues or do anything controversial.
Gosh, there has not been a non-controversial presidential campaign in a good while. Nowadays, we cannot imagine a presidential campaign not addressing issues and avoiding controversy.
The announcement a week and a half ago that the FBI was more-or-less reopening the investigation of Hillary e-mails on private servers helped shift the momentum to Trump. And the announcement Sunday that no charges would be brought against Hillary may have stunted that Trump momentum.
The FBI is not very good at political involvement. Maybe they should concentrate on fighting street crime.