- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 26, 2009

COMMENCEMENT

Yale honors alumnus Clinton

NEW HAVEN, Conn. | Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made a surprise return to her alma mater Monday, picking up an honorary degree from Yale University 36 years after earning her law degree from the Ivy League school.

Graduates celebrating commencement at Yale erupted in cheers as Mrs. Clinton was introduced. In keeping with Yale tradition, the names of honorary degree recipients are a closely held secret, although word began trickling out Sunday of Mrs. Clinton’s participation.

None of the 10 honorary degree recipients spoke during the morning ceremony held for the university at large, where Yale handed out 2,868 undergraduate and graduate degrees. It was the school’s 308th commencement ceremony.

Mrs. Clinton spoke for about five minutes during the Yale Law School’s separate commencement event held in the early afternoon. There, Mrs. Clinton, 60, reminisced about her days at Yale, saying the law school was an “encampment for protests and frivolity” when she arrived in the fall of 1969.

She met her future husband, Bill Clinton, at the school the next year, 22 years before he was elected the nation’s 42nd president.

She expressed hope that every graduate would “use every creative gene you have” in order to work “on behalf of the public good.”

Mrs. Clinton drew laughs from the crowd when she jokingly apologized for taking Yale Law School Dean Harold Hongju Koh “away from the law school and putting him to work in Washington.”

Mr. Koh was nominated by President Obama to be legal adviser to the State Department, and remains a possible nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.

MEMORIAL

Vietnam veteran’s name added to Wall

Tina Valdez and her family have worked for more than a dozen years to pay special tribute to her Vietnam veteran father.

The Santa Fe, N.M., native’s father, Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Enrique Valdez, is the latest addition to the names inscribed at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. On Monday, the National Park Service and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund honored him during a ceremony commemorating Memorial Day.

“It means a great deal,” Mrs. Valdez, 44, said. “It’s a lasting tribute to my father.”

Enrique Valdez served two tours in Vietnam and was wounded on Aug. 26, 1969. A piece of shrapnel severed his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down, his daughter said. He died in 1994 at age 56.

“If my father had to do it all over, he would do it again,” Mrs. Valdez said. “He was proud to serve his country.”

She said her father’s death was attributed to his war injuries, which is part of the criteria for being added to the wall. But she said it took years before the military finally honored her family’s request that he be included at the memorial. The addition will bring the number of names on the wall to 58,261.

The Marine spirit of determination fueled the family’s efforts, she said.

“I think my father would be proud to know what he instilled in us, we took to heart. We persevered,” Mrs. Valdez said.

SUPREME COURT

Key Democrat warns against ‘activist’

A leading Democratic senator warned Sunday his party he could support a potentially polarizing obstruction of President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court if he names an “activist” to the bench.

Parties in opposition to a sitting president traditionally call for moderation in a pick to the country’s highest court, but moderate Democrat Ben Nelson issued a blunt warning from Mr. Obama’s own party that the president should not choose someone seen as out of the mainstream.

“I don’t care whether they’re liberal or conservative,” Mr. Nelson told Fox News Sunday in an interview. “I just want to make sure they’re not activist. I don’t want an activist on the bench.”

“I think that’s the test - will they be an activist or not?” Mr. Nelson said.

“And I would hope that there wouldn’t be any circumstances that would be so extreme with any of the president’s nominees that the other side would feel the need to filibuster or that I might feel the need to filibuster in a case of extraordinary circumstances.”

It is widely expected that Mr. Obama will make his first nomination to the nine-member court this week, after liberal Justice David H. Souter’s retirement announcement.

Mr. Nelson was a member of a bipartisan group of senators - dubbed the Gang of 14 - who negotiated a compromise in 2005 following several divisive battles over appellate court nominations by then-President Bush.

STIMULUS

Billions, training set ]for ‘green jobs’

About $4 billion from President Obama’s $787 billion economic-stimulus measure that was budgeted to renovate public housing will be spent to create so-called “green jobs” by making the dwellings more energy-efficient.

Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan is scheduled to make the announcement Tuesday in Denver at a meeting of Mr. Obama’s Middle Class Task Force.

Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis, another task force member, also will announce that $500 million from the stimulus is becoming available to train workers for these jobs. That sum includes $50 million for communities battered by job losses and restructuring in the auto industry.

Both Mr. Donovan and Mrs. Solis also were announcing that their departments are working together to make it easier for public housing residents to find training programs or a green job.

The task force, which includes several other Cabinet secretaries, has been working since January to highlight policies and practices to help improve the standard of living of the middle class, an income group that suffered as the economy faltered.

The meeting at the Denver Science Museum, where Mr. Obama signed the stimulus plan into law three months ago, will be held to outline different ways government departments are working together to steer the middle class toward green jobs.

MEDIA

N.Y. Times: It knew of Watergate first

The Watergate scandal that brought down President Nixon was one of the great news scoops of the 20th century, and the New York Times on Monday revealed it nearly had the story in its grasp.

The early 1970s scandal, which turned the two Washington Post reporters who exposed it into journalism icons, was revealed in part to two Times reporters before the rival Post got it - but they it slip.

In 1972, Times reporter Robert Smith, in his last days at the newspaper, heard aspects of the tale of intrigue and corruption that reached all the way to the White House from then acting FBI Director L. Patrick Gray.

“He told me the attorney general was involved in a cover-up,” Mr. Smith recalled of the meeting, according to the Times.

“I said, ‘How high does it go? To the president?’ And he sat there and looked at me and he didn’t answer. His answer was in the look.”

Mr. Smith repeated Mr. Gray’s disclosures to a Times editor, Robert Phelps, but the story died as the newspaper was consumed with other political stories, and Mr. Smith left the paper to study at Yale Law School, the Times said.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama plays golf after observance

President Obama hit the golf course after marking his first Memorial Day as commander in chief.

The president’s motorcade took him to Fort Belvoir in Virginia. That’s where he went for a game of golf more than a week ago.

Mr. Obama grabbed his clubs after he participated in Memorial Day observances at Arlington National Cemetery. He laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns and, in brief remarks, saluted the men and women of America’s fighting forces as “the best of America.”

It was not clear who joined the president for the round of golf.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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