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Clinton Leans to Middle For High Court Choice

PRESIDENT Clinton, nearing a decision on his first Supreme Court nominee, is concentrating on moderate jurists as a premier opportunity to prove his centrist credentials, administration officials say.

Several advisers close to the process said an announcement would be made within 10 days.

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Three male federal appeals court judges considered to be pragmatic centrists are the most widely cited candidates. They are Gilbert Merritt of Nashville, Stephen Breyer of Boston, and Jon Newman of Hartford, Conn.

But one official said there was "a handful of names on a floating short list," including one woman.

The Wall Street Journal reported in yesterday's editions that Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt also was on the short list. The 1988 presidential candidate appointed Sandra Day O'Connor, now a Supreme Court justice, to the Arizona bench when he was governor of that state.

Other sources, in South Carolina and Washington, said Mr. Clinton's education secretary, former South Carolina Gov. Richard Riley, had told Clinton he was not interested in the post.

Women jurists considered included two state Supreme Court judges, Shirley Abrahamson of Wisconsin and Christine Durham of Utah. One person involved in the search, however, said they were not on the list any longer. Clinton college cleanup

President Clinton's classmates were posing for a photo, but he was having too much fun with his mower. "Look out!" an alumnus shouted.

Mr. Clinton grinned, then steered the mower away from 30 fellow members of Georgetown University's class of 1968. "I'm not done yet, Charlie. I've got to finish," he called. Wearing slacks, a green shirt, and white baseball cap, Clinton raked, shoveled, and pushed a wheelbarrow. But he seemed to like mowing the most as he repeatedly mowed the same area.

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The high-profile, if chaotic, cleanup last week of the Watts Branch Park in Washington was part of Clinton's 25-year college reunion. Tomorrow, the reunion moves to the White House for a party.

"It was all hoped that this would be low key," said Tom Campbell, a US Air pilot from Orange County, Calif. But low key it was not. A metal detector was set up and scores of police officers stood by. Clinton's motorcade snaked around the block while three dozen residents of the neighborhood looked on.

"All over America this year, people my age will be having their 25th-year college reunions," Clinton said. "And I think all the classes ... ought to consider not just having a good time and being with each other, but doing something for the communities where they went to college."

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