Debate by Utahns about whether President Clinton should resign is raging in my e-mail box.

Two weeks ago, I wrote a column calling for Clinton to resign after he admitted that he misled the nation about his relationship with then-intern Monica Lewinsky.I then left on vacation. So e-mail with reaction from readers piled up. At my return, I found four dozen messages also saying he should resign, only two defending the president and one that complained my grammar is poor and makes Utahns look like hicks.

A Deseret News poll during that same time showed that 52 percent of Utahns said Clinton should not resign, while 41 percent said he should. That, of course, is much more scientific than my e-mail. But my e-mail is more fun to read.

"It's time for you, Ken Starr, Orrin Hatch and the other partisan panty sniffers in the GOP give up your fixation on the sex lives of other Americans," wrote Jeff Harris.

He apparently was furious because he used other much more colorful language and made some rather blunt biologic suggestions that I don't dare print in a family newspaper.

The one other Clinton defender used less strident terms. "We must not forget that in most people's eyes the whole issue at hand is considered to be a private and personal issue. It is his family which should cast judgment, not individuals such as yourself," Rick Silva wrote.

But those calling for Clinton to resign ardently disagreed - and seemed to worry more about Clinton's effect on the nation's morality than political fallout or which party he leads.

Clint Warby wrote, "America, (which) once was `one nation under God' is no more. We are now `one nation (that) doesn't care about God or his commandments anymore,' and led by a president elected by a majority that feel that way."

One reader, whose name I chose to delete, said, "Although I'm a pacifist, gay, vegetarian, non-Mormon - probably your opposite and a natural constituent for President Clinton - honesty and integrity must prevail. He reminds me so much of Tricky Dick (Nixon)."

Richard L. Jensen wrote, "I have felt a growing dismay that the office of the presidency - and by extension the nation and its citizens - have been tainted by this despicable affair. . . . How have so many been seduced into some form of acceptance of this kind of behavior? What is this doing to us?"

Glen C. Griffin, president of the American Family League, wrote, "What a terrible message he has sent to young people and everyone, lowering the standards of decency even more than movies and sit-coms. . . . The president should resign - immediately. If he doesn't, he must be impeached. Adultery itself is a `high crime' and much more than a misdemeanor."

Luana Baadsgaard wrote, "The president should resign to preserve any respect for himself and the presidency of this country. If his wife can't trust him, how can the rest of us? It boggles my mind how his ratings in the polls remain so high. Have we sold out morality in America?"

Dan and Teri Cronenwett wrote, "We are profoundly concerned at how completely morally adrift President Clinton is proving to be. Thank God for the judicial and legislative branches, for without them, this nation would be lost with a character such as William J. Clinton in the presidency."

DeWayne Kay wrote that resignation "is the most obvious path of repair for the president and the nation." He added, "It might even show he may have some sense of right and wrong and can live his life accordingly. It would be a great step forward into respectability."

And Richard K. Swan said, "He should resign his office. Oh, that more people felt that honesty and integrity were important in everyday life."

In short, at least according to my e-mail, the president's defenders say that what happened between him and Lewinsky is private. Others worry that the affair and Clinton's "misleading" about it is degrading the nation and would be best patched by resignation.

In other words, it's morality, stupid (not polls or politics).