WHITEWATER POLL . . . HOLD THE HEARINGS, AL

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Most Americans think Congress should skip hearings on the Whitewater affair -- even though many believe President Clinton probably cut ethical corners, according to a CNN/USA Today Gallup poll released Thursday. Despite a 56 to 41 percent majority against staging hearings -- which incoming Senate Banking Committee chairman Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (R-N.Y.) has threatened to -- the poll found a plurality of the 1,016 respondents (46 percent) thought Clinton had behaved unethically but not illegally in his dealings with an Arakansas thrift. Why keep the Senate gavels in the drawer? Two-thirds said hearings would simply be a political attempt to hurt Clinton; only a fourth thought they would be a legitimate attempt to learn the truth.