Credit: Photo courtesy of Seton Hall Law Library
Peter W. Rodino Jr., chair of the house
Judiciary Committee during the Watergate
hearings, was made an honorary member of
Phi BetaKappa at Rutgers-Newark.
Former U.S. Rep. Peter W. Rodino Jr., who rose to national prominence before many in the audience were born, was made an honorary member of Phi Beta Kappa during a special program on the Newark campus attended by about 60 students and faculty at the Paul Robeson Campus Center.
The Columbus Day ceremony for Rodino, the 95-year-old Newark native best known as chair of the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate hearings following the 1972 presidential election, was especially fitting. One of the first Italian-Americans to serve in the House of Representatives, Rodino championed legislation to make Columbus Day, and also Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, national holidays.
Professor of Psychology Lillian Robbins, president of Phi Beta Kappa at Rutgers-Newark, presented Rodino with his certificate during a program inspired by a book by Gerald Pomper, emeritus Board of Governors Professor of Political Science at the Eagleton Institute of Politics. Rodino, who spent 40 years in the House, is one of eight subjects in Ordinary Heroes and American Democracy.
Asked to compare the impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton a quarter-century later, Rodino said, “We reached a very nonpartisan kind of conclusion that Richard Nixon had been culpable, guilty, of high crimes and misdemeanors.” Partisanship tainted the case against Clinton, however. “When Clinton lied, I think that might have been a kind of obstruction, but one which was based on an individual’s embarrassment, not one that reflected on the workings of our democracy.”