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Poll Turns Thumbs Down On First Lady's Old Name

PRESIDENTS rise and fall fast in the public's affection these days. Take President Clinton, for example. His election was greeted with a burst of national euphoria. But some pundits seemed to declare his presidency a failure before it even started because he was taking so long to appoint administration officials. Mr. Clinton's standing shot up again during the well-organized inauguration. But now, amid a heated debate over lifting the armed forces' ban on homosexuals, his approval ratings appear to be di pping again.

A CNN-USA Today poll finds that Clinton's approval rating is 58 percent - below average for a president in his first weeks in office. And his 20 percent disapproval rating is the highest on record. Of course, these findings are hardly the kiss of death for his administration. Presidents Reagan and Bush both started with a slightly lower approval rating (although both also had lower disapproval ratings) - and one went on to win landslide reelection, while the other was soundly defeated.

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Nevertheless, the White House can't be entirely happy with the latest numbers. Nor can Hillary Clinton be completely satisfied with the results of a recent Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll. The survey found that Mrs. Clinton has a positive rating of 57 percent, up from 46 percent in December. But on the all-important question of whether she should be known as Hillary Clinton or Hillary Rodham Clinton, 62 percent opted for dropping the maiden name. Only 6 percent were for the full name, Mrs. Clinton's st ated preference. Another nod to the gay lobby?

By tackling the volatile issue of homosexuals in the military so early in his term of office, President Clinton already has shown the importance he attaches to the gay lobby, which supported his campaign. Another indication: the president reportedly plans to appoint San Francisco Supervisor Roberta Achtenberg, an avowed lesbian, as assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity in the Department of Housing and Urban Development. If appointed, Ms. Achtenberg would be the highest-ranking openly

gay official in the history of the executive branch. Next in line: native Americans

The economy and health care may be at the top of Clinton's list of domestic concerns for his first 100 days in office, but many groups are clamoring for other issues to be addressed quickly, reports staff writer Mark Trumbull.

Native Americans, for example, say their First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion have been violated by recent decisions by the United States Supreme Court. One case denied protection of a religious site on public land, another allowed the firing of an American Indian for using the drug peyote as part of traditional religious practice.

"It's very frightening for our tribal people," says Walter Echo-Hawk, an attorney with the Native American Rights Fund in Boulder, Colo. The organization, backed by numerous Christian and Indian churches, urges the quick passage of amendments to the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978. The legislation, which was expected to be introduced yesterday afternoon by Sen. Daniel Inouye (D) of Hawaii, would address the religious rights of incarcerated Indians as well as other issues. Bill the Indefatigable

If historians or contemporaries attach an adjective to the president's name - in the manner of the Venerable Bede or William the Conquerer - he will probably be known as Bill the Indefatigable.

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Before dawn broke over the capital on Wednesday morning, President Clinton was jogging out the White House driveway. He ran 4.5 miles before returning home in daylight. To keep up, the presidential motorcade found itself careening along pedestrian walkways on the national Mall and heading the wrong way on one-way streets.

But at least the president, unlike ordinary residents of crime-ridden Washington, doesn't have to watch out for muggers. "The president has his Secret Service detail, and we feel that he can be fully protected," spokesman George Stephanopoulos said, in a bit of understatement.

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