Sen. Jesse Helms may still end up atop the Foreign Relations Committee come January, but the North Carolina Republican's snipe Monday that President Clinton had "better have a bodyguard" if he visited bases in Helms' state is playing badly throughout military ranks,TIME Defense correspondent Mark Thompsonsays. Predictably, Democrats blasted Helms -- White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta last night suggested the GOP rethink whether someone with such "extreme views" should chair such a powerful committee -- but many of the generals and G.I.s Helms claimed to speak for were also shocked. "Even those who have great disdain for Clinton now have disdain for Helms," say Thompson, who canvassed the military top-to-bottom. "One, they don't like the implication that the military is ready to take a pot shot at the President. And two, they perceive that folks overseas are witnessing a senior senator, coming into a position of relative power, say the president doesn't have respect from his troops. They see that as corrosive and debilitating." As one Army officer told Thompson: "It's no surprise (Helms) feels that way. But it is a shock to hear him say it."