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Hillary: President's Better Half?

President Clinton can count on the support of his wife and daughter, according to the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who said a prayer with the president at the White House on the eve of his testimony before special counsel Kenneth Starr's grand jury.

"I mean, face it, he [Mr. Clinton] is embarrassed by whatever happened - however one defines inappropriate - and Hillary has had to face the humiliation of it all. But then, she is mature, and they are in love, and their marriage will survive this," Jackson said.

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Jackson, a prominent civil rights leader and two-time presidential candidate who was summoned to the White House at Chelsea's request, said he met first with Mrs. Clinton and Chelsea, and then spoke with the president and the first lady.

He said he spoke with the Clintons "about matters of faith," which he called "private."

"I think what's most important to him is that Chelsea and Hillary are standing with him, and I suppose if that strength were not there, he would really be in bigger trouble," Jackson said.

Mrs. Clinton is first adviser as well as first lady these days, marshaling the troops that will devise the president's defense. She is one of the few people around the president who is protected by privilege from testifying against him.

She also is a savvy Yale-educated lawyer in her own right, a close friend and law school classmate of Mr. Clinton's personal attorney, David Kendall, and a previous grand jury witness, having testified about the couple's Whitewater land dealings.

In addition, Mrs. Clinton has had experience dealing with pointed questions about her husband's extramarital affairs, first during the 1992 presidential campaign and later during the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit and the Lewinsky matter.

Nevertheless, White House aides are leery of discussing the first lady's reaction to the president's decision to testify the grand jury about his relationship with a woman half his age and only a few years older than his daughter. One likened it to touching the high-voltage third rail on a train track.

But if the storm that is raging around the White House bothers her, she shows little signs of it in public. She continues to fufill her official duties with dignity and aplomb.

Because of this, her popularity is rising. A CBS News poll conducted last month showed 50 percent of those polled held a favorable view of Mrs. Clinton, one of the highest ratings she has ever received.

A group of magazine editors told BS 'This Morning' Co-Anchor Jane Robelot that their readers all admire Mrs. Clinton.

"The first lady should behave with dignity and get on with her job," said Myrna Blyth, editor-in-chief of Ladies Home Journal, "I think that's what Mrs. Clinton is doing every day. That's why women admire her so much."

Elizabeth Crow, editor-in-chief of Mademoiselle, says letters and surveys show that the magazine's readers believe Mrs. Clinton is the bulwark of her husband's defense.

"If she likes him, we like him," Crow says her readers tell her. "If she'll put up with this, what the heck are we jeopardizing national security for, to give him a hard time about a private matter within his family? This seems to be something they can deal with. Our readers tell us, 'Leave them alone'."

Lesley Seymour, editor-in-chief of YM, which is popular with teen-agers, says her magazine's audience identifies most closely with the Clintons' 18-year-old daughter, Chelsea.

"They all identify with her," Seymour said. "They think, 'What if my father is having an affair and the world found out and I have to live with it?'"

For this same reason, she said, her teen-age readers admire Mrs. Clinton: "She's going on with her job, talking about stately homes and monuments. But most of all, being royal and dignified. That why we admire her. That's what you would want your mother to do."

As the investigation has released one lurid detail after another, the first lady has not flinched from the public eye.

She serves as a fund-raising draw for Democrats, standing in for the president Wednesday night at a Milwaukee fundraiser so he could be in Washington for a meeting of his advisers on the African embassy bombings.

While in Milwaukee, the first lady stopped by a flood-damaged neighborhood, drawing a crowd that yelled support and applauded her. When a reporter began shouting questions about Mr. Clinton's pending testimony, one woman in the crowd snapped: "We don't want to hear about that."

"If it was me, I don't think I could act as normal as she is," Chris Remington, a college student, said as she awaited Mrs. Clinton's arrival at a rally. "It says that she's just a really strong person. I've always thought that, and this just reinforces it."

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