In his case, deep doubts persist about whether he is a President--strong, stable, and capable--or an amiable kid.
In her case, the situation is more poisonous. Hillary Rodham Clinton has become, for reasons not all of her own making, a dramatically polarizing public figure. She has many admirers. But her enemies are bitter. One measure of this is the gleeful snickering you hear around Washington as it becomes clearer that she, rather than her husband, played the major role in the couple's relationship with Madison Guaranty.
These are the sorts of people who lie in wait. So perhaps it is not so surprising that in the Whitewater matter, a modest tendril of scandal smoke quickly turned into the monster blaze that ate Oakland.
Still, the rapid development of this scandal tells as much about our system of political communication as it does about the Clintons. We simply do not need much fuel any more to get ourselves going. With just a small piece of encouragement, we are capable of attaining critical mass and becoming self-sustaining in our production of scandal energy.
For the moment, Clinton has pulled the rods out of the reactor. His acceptance of a special prosecutor has heartened his own party. It gives his people another justification for not making the Whitewater documents more public. The special prosecutor's scope and reporting requirements are not clear and may be subject to negotiation. The investigation will drive the case underground for some period of time.
But the President's reprieve can only be contingent and temporary. Rep. Jim Leach ((R-Iowa), who has been pursuing the Madison matter, is fighting with the Office of Thrift Supervision about access to that agency's documents. At the Office of Professional Responsibility, the investigation into Foster's death is, as they say, widening. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is investigating Hillary Clinton's law firm to see whether she and her colleagues misled regulators.
Washington has never given a clearer demonstration of the fact that it is an exceedingly dangerous place.