This article comes from our electronic archive and has not been reviewed. It may contain glitches.

Like plants and sunbathers, the American presidency benefits from light being shed. The Whitewater hearings planned by the Senate Banking Committee hold the potential to supply a shroud. With their narrow reach and limited inquiries into the scandal that has enveloped President Clinton, the hearings and their Democratic organizers promise little to the president, who will not be served by a half-hearted effort, and the American people, who deserve a full accounting of this matter.

The Democratically controlled Senate voted 56-43 to restrict the hearings to three subjects, only one of which is rightly within the purview of the banking panel: Deputy White House Counsel Vincent Foster's death and the resulting investigation; the handling of Mr. Foster's files following his death; and the alleged effort by the White House to steer a Treasury Department probe concerning the Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan.

Certainly, these are proper subjects for examination, and appropriately within the oversight functions of Congress, but the Whitewater deal and the administration's handling of its disclosure furnish many avenues for investigation. Why the narrow path? And why limit the congressional inquiry to only those matters whose life runs from the time President Clinton took office, especially when the far more compelling events took place when he was governor of Arkansas?

Our concern in this matter is that all the facts be brought to light for the American people. Senate Democrats, obviously, have another agenda in mind, and their claustrophobic approach to the hearings fits their aim. The irony is that the president, if he is truly free of wrongdoing, finds himself in a continuing state of controversy even if the Senate panel clears him on all matters before it. Issues unresolved in the investigation will remain as a curse on Mr. Clinton's presidency.

We hope for a more thorough accounting from Special Counsel Robert Fiske's investigation into Whitewater. Senators on the Banking Committee are providing only an illusion they are getting to the heart of the matter.