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Vice President Walter Mondale, NYT reporter Charlie Savage discuss executive powers

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Three people are on stage.
Left to right: University of Minnesota professor Larry Jacobs, former Vice President Walter Mondale, New York Times reporter Charlie Savage discuss presidential powers at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs on Monday.
Mike Carri | Courtesy of University of Minnesota

Former U.S. Senator and Vice President Walter Mondale and New York Times reporter Charlie Savage speak at the University of Minnesota about the power of the presidency. 

Savage has reported about the recurring tensions and the balance of power between the presidency and the congress for two decades. 

He is  the author of "Power Wars,” an investigative history of national security and legal policy making in the Obama administration, and "Takeover," which chronicles the Bush-Cheney administration’s efforts to expand presidential power. 

Vice President Mondale said we need to expect that the President will go to Congress for authority to go to war. “The founders wanted some fundamental division of power. The founders were wise…. This is life and death for the American people.”

Charlie Savage said views on executive power vary based on which party is occupying the White House. “Everyone is hypocritical based on the politics of the moment. That’s one of the reasons reform is hard, because somebody’s always in the White House.”

“A lot of arguments in Washington about politics and law tend to be situational,” he added, “which is one of the reasons it’s so hard to find a principle that anyone really stands for across the board.” 

Walter Mondale disagreed that the above statement. He said “it doesn’t have to be petty politics.” Mondale bemoaned the mostly ineffectual Congress of today and recalled a time when he was in the US Senate  and members of both parties were not considered to be “asleep on the job.”

Since 2007, Charlie Savage said he has been surveying presidential candidates to determine the scope and limits of their understanding of executive power. He reported on the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates this summer. 

Professor Larry Jacobs moderated the event on Monday at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School.