America in Shock

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Americans are having trouble coming to terms with President Clinton's latest crisis. After two full days of the Monica Lewinsky scandal dubbed "Zippergate" by Geraldo Rivera; "Fornigate" and "Interngate" by others few can yet discern whether this is history as tragedy or as farce. The mood across the country is a mixture of shock, disbelief, amusement and outrage.

"Nearly everyone I talk to is spitting angry or near tears with grief. Or both," writes Susan Ager in Friday's Detroit Free Press. "No one can imagine how such a smart man, with so much to lose, could be such an idiot for sex."

The thought of the allegations being true appears to be so horrific that the public is suspending judgment. In contrast to the first-day poll, a majority in the latest CBS News survey said they were either in doubt over Clinton's alleged affair and perjury, or didn't know enough to say. Even Clinton's opponents are reticent in public: "I think every citizen ought to slow down, relax and wait for the facts to develop," a muted Newt Gingrich said Thursday.

Encouragingly for the President, an ABC poll found that no more women than men expressed reservations over his possible dalliances. "If he did it, so what?" Kansas City resident Sherri Ford told the AP. At the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Meredith Oakley merely shrugs. This, she says, is why Clinton's home state called him Slick Willie all along.