Frances FitzGerald's sobering elegy for the Reagan years, in the Feb. 25 Rolling Stone, begins and ends with a disquieting matter of fact: "To date, more than 100 senior administration officials have been indicted, have had to resign or have been accused on substantial grounds of illegal or unethical conduct."

The misdeeds, grand and petty, of this administration's best and brightest have been catalogued elsewhere. FitzGerald here weaves them fastidiously into a contextual tapestry. The special stamp of a Reagan-style scandal, she writes, is "an interplay between ideology and greed, between breaking the law for the public as well as the private good."

Her images and vignettes are more striking. Donald Regan was "a frontman for a frontman." John Poindexter was "a black hole. He took everything in, but nothing came out: no reaction, no analysis, no judgment -- nothing." Oliver North was "an innocent," she says. "Like Reagan, {he} had a talent for believing that what he said was true. But unlike the president, North had no very stable sense of self." A presidency obsessed with guerrillas and terrorists, she points out, ended up behaving like them -- only less successfully.

What of the president himself? Surrounded by Iran-contra miscreants and legions of others who have gone bad (or arrived bad) in his service, Ronald Reagan has kept his distance and, many would agree, his personal honor. "Yet he has never chided any one of his appointees for betraying the public trust," Fitzgerald writes. "His smiling face has hovered over them all like that of a Cheshire cat."

The Monroe Doctrine

To the consternation of all with low thresholds of boredom, the legend of Marilyn Monroe will never die. So long as there are rolls of film yet to expose and men who will gush for love or money, there will be magazine features like the one in this month's L.A. Style.

The photographs here, all but two never published before, date from March 1955, apparently a transitional time for Monroe (post-DiMaggio, pre-Miller). The candid scenes have a day-in-the-life quality, and a couple of them are worth preserving. The pictures were taken by a theretofore (and thenceforward) obscure lensman named Ed Feingersh, on assignment for Redbook.

Why the fuss? Bob LaBrasca, in the first of two damp essays that accompany these pictures, offers one man's opinion: "Our unshackled eroticism" toward Marilyn "is something we've always been timid about confronting. It may be that when we make peace with Marilyn we can be comfortable with ourselves."

Michael Ventura is not timid about anything. "Hollywood's most famous child," he writes in the other essay, was -- oh, so many things: "vague, riveting, infinitely desirable, infinitely pitiable -- the sex goddess, abortion queen, dope addict ... actress, knight's lady, lady-knight, and first among America's female ghosts."

Turn the page: "Marilyn walked naked through a cathedral called the imagination of America, a dark place smelling of napalm and the almond scent of semen, smelling of womanly musk and Lucky Strikes, smelling of greasy dollar bills and Thanksgiving stuffing."

Then, working toward a crescendo, Ventura raises a question that may not have occurred to anyone else: "What can Jackie O be thinking?" Jealous reveries of Jack and Marilyn as "lovers in Dante's Inferno" is what. Is there an editor in the house?

L.A. Style is among the brat pack of downtown subculture magazines (Details, Fad, Splash, Paper) enjoying some notoriety these days. As it happens, this newsstand wavelet is assessed in the January-February Columbia Journalism Review, not approvingly, by Philip Weiss and in the February American Photographer, from the photographer's angle, by Jane S. Chou.

Al in the Family

Already Gail Sheehy has probed the psychological innards of five would-be presidents (George Bush, Robert Dole, Gary Hart, Michael Dukakis and Jesse Jackson) for a series of candidate profiles in Vanity Fair. As she takes on candidate number six, Albert Gore Jr., Sheehy is struck mostly by appearances.

"So young" -- period paragraph -- are the first words of her February story. Gore is 39. "This colt of a country boy" shows up barelegged at Sheehy's motel-room door one cold morning to go jogging with her. "Not a crease or a ripple or age spot," she marvels. "And his hands! No wormy veins, the knuckles without a single pucker. He looks so preposterously young I can't suppress a smile ..."

He looks like a boy, he walks like a boy, he eats like a boy, but when Gore opens his mouth, "he never, ever, talks like a boy." A theme is born. "So young. And yet so worldly-wise." The Tennessee senator, the son of the Tennessee senator, "is a divided man from a divided generation." Others have trod in Sheehy's path of discovery, she allows, but "they fail to understand what drives him -- the need to demonstrate that he deserves his destiny." No doubt about it. But how does this quality set Gore apart from every other presidential candidate?

Galumphing Around

The playful mind at work -- in this case that of Time magazine's John Skow, writing the endpaper in the February Smithsonian -- can come up with the darnedest things. Isn't triumph too grand a word, Skow wonders, to describe such minor events as "when one of half a dozen self-swollen mediocrities wins a plurality in a primary election." Wouldn't biumph be more appropriate? "A tax audit resulting in a refund and an apology from the IRS," Skow asserts, is cause for only a biumphant cheer. Some things are mere monumphs, and others only nullumphs. A quadrumph, for its part, doesn't come along but once in a blue moon.