Whitewater suddenly got simpler, which makes it harder for President Clinton to handle politically. The intricacies of the case, at trial and in congressional testimony, were eclipsed by the guilty verdict in Little Rock.

The very complexity of the charges had deflected it as a campaign issue, but the convictions in Little Rock were instantly translated by Republicans into words anybody can understand. Words like guilty, influence-wielding, cronies, cover-up."I think it's not surprising that some Republicans are attempting to make partisan political gain out of the jury verdict," White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said Wednesday.

And the White House was working to counter it, with juror comments, and by repeating, as often before, that Clinton and his wife had been shown in repeated investigations to have done nothing wrong.

There have been no such accusations, but the fraud convictions of two former business partners and his successor as governor of Arkansas are grist for Clinton's critics. He was a videotaped witness for a defense that failed, an investor in the 1978 Arkansas land deal behind the case, and neither the trials nor the Republican-led investigations are over yet.