Never-Ending Story?

The Washington scandal story continues to take new twists. This week it's the appeals court decision that Secret Service agents can be compelled to testify before a grand jury looking into allegations that President Clinton may have obstructed justice.

Last week it was a federal district court judge dismissing tax evasion charges against Clinton friend and former associate attorney general Webster Hubbell.

This is all very interesting from a legal, journalistic, or political viewpoint. But the story - and by this we mean Whitewater, "Monica-gate," and all their spinoffs - has a distinctly stale flavor for many Americans. Meanwhile, the president pursues his foreign policy initiatives, like the China trip, and talks of revitalizing such domestic priorities as shoring up Social Security. The public, polls continue to show, think he's generally doing a good job.

But public ennui with the scandal story doesn't obscure its underlying importance. Serious questions have been raised about the country's highest official, his personal morality has been impugned, and a resolution is needed. As we've said before, we'd like to see the White House drop its stalling tactics, such as the raising of "privilege" barriers to the investigation. And we'd like to see Mr. Starr wrap up his work and send a final report to Congress.

Rulings like that on the Secret Service tend in the right direction. The appeals court panel's reasoning was sound. The ruling won't affect the service's primary role of guarding the president when he's in public, and a president's own instinct for self-preservation should keep him from trying to elude his guards.

The Secret Service agents and staff counsel whose testimony is sought by Starr's investigators may, however, have little to add. There's already ample evidence Ms. Lewinsky frequented the White House. Proof of suborning perjury - the main charge Starr hopes to nail down - will take a lot more than Monica sightings.

Even if Starr builds what he thinks is a case for impeachment, it's far from clear the House of Representatives will agree. But members of Congress, like the American people themselves, are by now more than ready to get a final report, draw conclusions, and put this matter behind them.

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