The Latest in Second-Term Scandals





White House scandals in the second term of presidencies have become the rule. Dwight D. Eisenhower's chief of staff was forced from office by accusations of corruption. Richard M. Nixon resigned over Watergate. Ronald Reagan's White House was embroiled in the Iran-contra scheme. Bill Clinton was impeached over his deceptions regarding an affair with a White House intern. But President Bush's situation is different in several respects. Most important, from Mr. Bush's perspective, he is the first second-term president since Franklin D. Roosevelt to have both houses of Congress controlled by his own party. The other scandals were driven, at least in part, by Congressional investigations. This Congress is unlikely to investigate this president. On the other hand, except for Nixon, the other second-term presidents in the last half-century mostly maintained their popularity even as the scandals were unfolding.

At his low point, in the spring of 1958, Eisenhower's handling of the presidency was approved of by 48 percent of the public and disapproved of by 36 percent, a Gallup poll showed. At the end of his term, Eisenhower's approval rating had climbed to 59 percent.

In February 1987, as the Iran-contra scandal was breaking, 42 percent of those questioned in a New York Times/CBS News poll approved of Reagan's presidency, with 46 percent disapproving. It was the only month of his second term when a plurality was against him. By summer, his approval rate had climbed above 50 percent, and it was 60 percent when he left office.

Mr. Clinton's approval rating in his second term never fell below 55 percent, and it was 68 percent at the end of his presidency.

Mr. Bush is faring much worse. A Gallup/CNN/USA Today poll taken last weekend found Mr. Bush's approval rating to be 42 percent and his disapproval rating 55 percent.



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