Journalist, Mondale discuss constitutional crisis

Panel seeks to clarify rightful authority of executive, legislative branches of government.

Although itâÄôs been nearly two months since the Bush administration cleaned out its desks, the constitutionality of its operations will be forever analyzed. That very topic dominated a panel discussion held at the University of Minnesota Tuesday night. As a crowd of mostly adults filled the seats of the Ted Mann Concert Hall, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh, former Vice President Walter Mondale and Larry Jacobs, director of the UniversityâÄôs Center for the Study of Politics and Governance, discussed the daunting task of presidential administrations to balance the use of national security while honoring the constitutional system. âÄúThereâÄôs no doubt we need presidential power for an effective defense of the homeland,âÄù Jacobs said. âÄúWe run into problems when our other two branches of the government pull back and the president seizes their authority and ignores them. Then the system gets out of whack.âÄù The conversation comes at a pivotal time âÄî the transition into a new presidency âÄî and some are wondering whether the Obama administration will continue to wield the exorbitant presidential power of the Bush administration, Jacobs said. âÄúI think thereâÄôs a big question of how far Obama is going to pull back from the prerogative presidency of George Bush,âÄù Jacobs said. Jacobs, a political science professor and the UniversityâÄôs Mondale Chair for Political Studies, said that while Obama has taken steps to cut back on executive authority, itâÄôs clear that âÄî given the troop surge in Afghanistan and the continuation of the military tax in Pakistan âÄî he is empowered by BushâÄôs precedent. Hersh expressed his disappointment with what he called âÄúthe collapse of the mainstream pressâÄù over the years. âÄúNewspapers will never want to admit this, but the message sent to its investigative reporters was âÄòweâÄôre not digging holesâÄô,âÄù Hersh said of the time period between 2002 and 2003 when uncertainty surrounded then-president BushâÄôs claims of weapons of mass destruction. Best known for his investigative work, Hersh is credited with unearthing such atrocities as the Mai Lai massacre during the Vietnam War âÄî a story which won him the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting âÄî the C.I.A.-led bombing in Cambodia, the U.S. governmentâÄôs covert operations to destabilize IranâÄôs leadership and, most recently, the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers in the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad . From 1972 to 1979, Hersh worked for the New York Times before working as a freelance reporter and regular contributor to the New Yorker. He has written several books, including his most recent, âÄúThe Chain of Command,âÄù in which he criticizes the Bush administrationâÄôs post-9/11 invasion of Iraq. Mondale, a former U.S. Senator from Minnesota and University alumnus, expressed optimism over the resilience of the constitution, saying that while many presidents try to sidestep its authority, they donâÄôt usually get away with it. All three panel members highlighted the importance of the press during trying times. âÄúThe press is our eyes; theyâÄôre the watchdog,âÄù Jacobs said. âÄúA critical engaged and scrutinizing press is a linchpin of a democratic citizenry.âÄù