WHILE DEMOCRATS relish disarray in the Republican camp, continued Whitewater revelations serve as a reminder that this is a time bomb waiting to detonate in the midst of President Clinton's re-election campaign. Twin investigations -- one by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr and another by a Senate committee headed by Republican Alfonse D'Amato -- churn on relentlessly, turning up material embarrassing to the First Family.
On March 4, Mr. Clinton's successor as Arkansas governor, Jim Guy Tucker, and the Clintons' Whitewater business partners, James B. and Susan McDougal, face a trial that may offer new insight on the incestuous financial dealings of the Arkansas power elite. Senator D'Amato can't wait to haul witnesses in this trial before his Whitewater investigating committee.
This week independent counsel Starr obtained indictments against two Arkansas bankers who gave $7,000 to then-Gov. Clinton's campaign in 1990 in funds alleged to be the result of illegal transactions. Two months later, one of these defendants was appointed to the Arkansas Highway Commission. The new indictees are but the latest additions to a growing list of Clinton friends in trouble with the law.
Concurrently with the new Arkansas developments, Senator D'Amato added to his case for an extension of his committee probe after the White House turned over its third batch of documents in two months that had been subpoenaed long ago. This time it was 100 pages of notes from Harold Ickes, deputy White House chief of staff and manager of the Clinton re-election campaign. The notes described damage-control efforts within the White House in 1994 as Whitewater disclosures proliferated. While GOP probers got little evidence to buttress their suspicions of an obstruction of justice, they did get some juicy tidbits suggesting that the Justice Department was a lot more forthcoming than Mr. Ickes' control group.
So far there is no evidence that Whitewater has deterred Mr. Clinton's rise in public opinion polls to the point where he is comfortably ahead of any would-be Republican rivals in the field. Information dribbling out has often been too obscure or nit-picky. But if Mr. Starr ever gets to the point of handing down
presidential-level indictments. . . watch out!