The saddest finding in the network polls swirling around the high offices of president and Speaker is that (a) majorities say Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich are not honest and (b) much greater majorities say the two are no less honest than other officials.
Is there a way that reelected President Clinton and reelected Speaker Gingrich can somehow (a) justify the support of those who voted for them and (b) lift the public's perception of the integrity of their representatives in general?
The short answer is to cooperate fully and ungrudgingly and unevasively with the ongoing investigations of ethical and legal questions.
Most immediate is the need to allow the House ethics committee the time to complete its work on the Gingrich file thoroughly and accurately. Even without the committee's full bill of particulars, a majority of the polled public said that Mr. Gingrich should not have been reelected. The figures were 62 percent (ABC), 68 percent (CBS), and 65 percent (CNN/USA Today/Gallup).
So far, in a poll before the Speaker vote on Tuesday, a majority of 58 percent approve Clinton's job performance, while a similar percentage (59) disapprove of Gingrich's.
But the president cannot expect such backing to continue unless he begins to satisfy questions of integrity.
And those colleagues who stuck by Gingrich may have second thoughts if they find their confidence in his apologies misplaced.