So far, President Clinton has retained his Cabinet intact through the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Predictions of a mass exodus from the upper reaches of this administration have been premature.

If this is a ray of hope for Clinton, it isn't very bright. There are a lot of reasons people are hanging on, and some of them don't have much to do with personal loyalty to Clinton.Without question, there is considerable affection between Clinton and the people who work for him. Uniformly, they describe him as warm and understanding face to face. You hear those remarks in the same paragraph as you hear bitterness and anger about what he has done to his own and their dreams. Polls showing his continuing popularity in the midst of the scandal only heighten the frustration at what his administration could have been.

Paul Begala, Clinton's communications director, told CNN's Larry King he was angry and disappointed in Clinton and was staying because of the job Clinton has been doing.

"I could (resign)," said Begala, "but . . . I think the question for the country and for me is, `Is he doing a good job in the office?' "

If that is the best that Clinton's top drum-beater can eke out on behalf of this president, think of the choking that is going on as others try to defend him.

Donna Shalala, the health and human services secretary, scolded Clinton for suggesting they all soldier on after his televised confession that he had inappropriate contacts with Monica Lewinsky. They embraced and made up, but then she scolded him again within 48 hours.

Defense Secretary Bill Cohen, the lone Republican in the Cabinet, delivered faint praise.

"Do you have the same level of confidence in President Clinton following the Starr report?" Cohen was asked after independent counsel Kenneth Starr's report on the Lewinsky affair was issued.

"I believe the president is capable of carrying out his responsibilities as commander-in-chief, yes," Cohen said.

Cohen, Shalala and others might like to leave, but what keeps them on is a mixture of factors - not the least of which is that resignation at this stage would be perceived as an act of desertion and disloyalty.

"Anyone who jumps off this ship now - and believe me some of us have thought about it - would be guilty of kicking a man when he's down," said a top official who spoke.

Tried-and-true Democrats cite a more visceral reason for standing with Clinton: they can't stand Starr and believe him to be a conservative ideologue masquerading as a legal giant.

Clinton's resignation would leave a great hunger among Democrats to win what many in this administration regard as a pitched struggle with the right wing to continue a presidency that was legitimately elected and remains pop-u-lar with the American people.

Some on Clinton's team perceive a collision of fundamental political forces far more important than the sordid facts of the case. In the words of one adviser, the fight now being joined remains exactly what first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton said it was from the outset - a power struggle with the right wing, which wants to take the country in an entirely new direction than the moderate course voters have chosen. There is some private disappointment that elected office-holders, particularly in the congressional leadership, have been too busy distancing themselves from Clinton to see the real field of battle.

And yet, even among those who want to join the fight, there is a weariness and depression on Clinton's team. As Democrats pressed for a speedy resolution of the impeachment question, majority Republicans made it clear impeachment is going to be a long, drip-by-drip process. So Clinton's team looks down the road and sees nothing but Monica, and there is a certain yearning for Gore.