Clinton scandal: Just one question is asked: Can he survive?

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It was hour-by-hour, wall-to-wall, ear-to-ear media coverage of the presidential sex scandal over the weekend, with even the Pope's last Mass in Cuba and a major sporting highlight - the Superbowl - taking second and third billing. Yesterday morning television talkshows were dominated by one question: Can the President survive?

It seemed every Washington insider was called to testify for or against the President in the court of public opinion. They included past aides, including former spokesmen and women, George Stephanopoulos and Dee-Dee Myers, lawyers, and a sprinkling of veterans of the Watergate scandal, which cost Richard Nixon his presidency.

Opinion polls showed Bill Clinton's approval rating falling by 10 per cent since last week, and still dropping. Perhaps more telling was a shift in view about whether he was telling the truth and whether the affair mattered. In both cases, the balance of opinion appeared to have turned against him.

The Washington Post, first to break the story last Wednesday, devoted six pages of its main news section to it yesterday. It and the New York Times, which have strongly supported Mr Clinton's policies, used editorials to express concern about the state of the presidency and his "vulnerability".

However, Geneva Overholser, ombudsman of the Washington Post, used her weekly column to highlight readers' outraged calls and letters about what they saw as hype - at least at the start of the crisis. Their message, she said, was "We don't care about President Clinton's sex life.

"We knew that he played around ... We care that the nation is in good shape. We're tired of these constant investigations, these constant attempts to bring him down."