IN my Looking Around column in this newspaper on Tuesday I wrote that in that day's elections the American people had a heavy responsibility to show a marked shift away from Republican candidates and to ensure that the issue of Iraq overrode all other considerations. To a remarkable extent this is exactly what happened. The Democrats now have a good working majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in twelve years and the possibility of taking the Senate also remains open. PP The message was loud and clear. Exit poll surveys conducted by a news media consortium showed that 59 per cent of voters expressed anger or dissatisfaction with the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war; 36 per cent said they cast their vote specificially to express opposition to Bush compared with 22 per cent who said they were voting to support him. However, it is not certain that Mr Bush has yet heard or understood the message. At his press conference yesterday he gave the impression that in the new situation he wants ”to go back to the Texas model”, a reference to his time as Governor of Texas when he collaborated actively with Democrats in the State legislature. This is, of course, exactly the model which he promised to use when first elected as President in 2000 but has failed absolutely to adopt for six years. On Iraq the Democrats have no clearly formulated solution to the bloody mess created by the Bush administration. Much will therefore depend on the proposals likely to made in the near future by James Baker and the commission he has led at Mr Bush's request. Mr Baker is a vastly experienced operator in Washington and it is probable that his recommendations on Iraq policy will take into account the need for bi–partisan support following this week's elections. PP More broadly, it is to be hoped that the rebuke delivered to him on Tuesday by the American voters will lead Mr Bush to rethink his whole approach to foreign policy. His one–track insistence on imposing his particular vision of democracy on the rest of the world has been an unmitigated disaster and has led to the widespread hostility to the United States even among those who have always thought of America as a beacon of freedom in the world. There is little that Mr Bush can do to recover the damage he has already done in the two years remaining of his presidency, but at least he should try not to make matters any worse. I HAVE focussed thus far on the international implications of Tuesday's mid–term elections but the voters also delivered a clear message about the way in which the Republican majority has run Congress for the past twelve years. In the exit polls 41 per cent of voters rated corruption as ”extremely important” to their decision. That has certainly been part of the problem but an iron–fisted approach to management of the legislative programme has also contributed to disillusionment with Republican control. In the run–up to Tuesday's elections I heard several Republicans warning against what they called ”grid-lock” in Washington if President Bush had to deal with a Democrat-controlled House or Senate. Strange. I've always thought that what they now call ”grid lock” was devised by America's founding fathers to provide the necessary ”checks and balances” in the nation's governance.


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