After weeks of largely collective restraint, many of the nation's most prominent Republicans unleashed scathing attacks on President Clinton this weekend, asserting that his relationship with a White House intern raised questions about his moral fitness for office.

Until now, many leading Republicans had been careful to stay silent regarding the ever-changing accusations swirling about Clinton. But with an audience of more than 1,600 mostly conservative Republicans from 13 states, party leaders addressing the Southern Republican Leadership Conference here could not resist firing biting partisan salvos at the president.Sounding a theme that was repeated throughout the weekend, Sen. Don Nickles, R-Okla., said: "Unfortunately, with Bill Clinton, we're talking about someone you're embarrassed to talk to your children about. And that's sad."

Former Vice President Dan Quayle devoted much of his speech to stern comments about what he called a "disgusting situation" in which, he said, Clinton has forfeited his moral authority.

"The presidency requires total focus, total commitment, total concentration," he said. "Now, we have a president who has lost credibility with the American people, who is severely distracted doing his job. This is sad - and dangerous."

Steve Forbes, who is preparing his second run for the Republican presidential nomination, fired up the crowd, saying, "Has there ever been a sharper contrast between the goodness of America and the corruption and the shadiness and the sordidness that we have in the White House today?"

Patricia Harrison, co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, said, "Ladies and gentlemen, who would have thought that we'd need a V-chip to watch the evening news? Do you remember? We were promised the most ethical administration in American history."