In the Capitol yesterday, there were the hawks and there were the doves and there were the agonizers. It was, without question, hardest to be among the agonizers.

Most members of the House and Senate had decided clearly, even if with much trepidation, that they were either for giving President Bush authority to use force against Iraq, or against it. But Rep. Dan Glickman (D-Kan.) was not among them.

How was he doing, Glickman was asked last night.

"Fine," Glickman said reflexively. Then he changed his mind.

"Actually, I'm terrible," Glickman said. "I feel like the whole burden of the world is on me. I know it isn't, but it feels that way."

For politicians like Glickman, Sen. James M. Jeffords (R-Vt.), Rep. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Albert Gore Jr. (D-Tenn.), yesterday was a thoroughly confusing, frustrating and troubling day. Where others saw black and white, they could see only gray.

"I'm a person who's felt, let's give sanctions a chance, what's the rush?" Glickman said. "What I'm struggling with is whether we might not be better off as a country with a strong affirmative vote for the president, which might actually move us closer to peace. If {Iraqi President} Saddam {Hussein} is going to make a decision at the last minute to begin the process of withdrawal, he might be more likely to make it in the face of a united America."

Glickman yesterday did what he often does when faced with a tough vote: He called his 74-year-old father, a Wichita businessman, for advice. "Use your gut, use your instincts," his father told him. Glickman asked his father -- "my closest adviser" -- to sleep on it and try again.

Jeffords is a liberal Republican from Vermont, one of the most antiwar states in the union. "I just called my office in Montpelier and we had 500 people standing outside the door demonstrating against the war," Jeffords said cheerfully during an interview in his office.

Jeffords, who has bucked his party more often than not, agrees with the peace groups that Bush should not have switched American troops in Saudi Arabia to an offensive posture and would like to give sanctions a chance to work. But he would also like to give Bush a chance for peace.

"I'm not going to pull the rug out from under the president," Jeffords said. "I take this resolution, and I don't know whether it does or it doesn't."

"I understand the Middle East well enough to know you have to talk tough in poker-type negotiations," Jeffords said. "After yesterday, I felt the president might win this."

In an even more daunting position was Schumer. Like many of the Democrats who support Bush, Schumer is a loyal supporter of Israel and sees Saddam as a thoroughly dangerous man. Yet he also fears a rush to war.

"It's one of the most difficult decisions I've had to make in 16 years of government," he said. "Each side has some very good arguments -- and some major weaknesses."

"The crux of the issue is whether sanctions will work," Schumer said. "If the sanctions don't work and we fail to act, we'll have made a major mistake that we'll pay for -- significantly -- later. If the sanctions would have worked and we act precipitously, we will have made a major mistake."

Also agonizing was Gore. A generally liberal Democrat, Gore made his relative hawkishness a major theme of his unsuccessful run for the White House in 1988. Yet in voting with the president, he would be voting against his party's major defense spokesman, and a potential rival for the presidency, Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.).

But Gore was doing his agonizing in private. Marla Romash, his press secretary, said he was turning down all interviews yesterday.