Niall Ferguson: Bush's Failed Presidency

Roundup: Historians' Take

In the aftermath of George W Bush's re-election as president two years ago, his campaign manager, Karl Rove, amused himself and his boss with a battery-powered "Redneck Horn". At the touch of a dashboard button, the device would yell insults in a raucous Southern accent, providing automated road rage for "red state" Republicans.

The toy's abusive messages ranged from the relatively mild "Slow down, dumbass!" to "Hey, hogneck, who taught you how to drive?"; "What the hell was that manoeuvre?"; "Are you freaking blind?" and "You're a goddam moron!" How they all laughed in the White House, if the Bush administration's renegade court historian, Bob Woodward, is to be believed.

Today, however, the joke is on them. For the Redneck Horn could now just as easily be used by ordinary Americans to express their frustration not merely with Mr Bush but with the entire Republican Party. With a little over a week remaining until the congressional mid-term elections on November 7, some opinion polls indicate that "You're a goddam moron!" is precisely the message voters intend to send the White House.

Certainly, "freaking blind" sums up the majority view of the administration's policy in Iraq. And, after the bewildering scandals that have ended the careers of three Republican congressmen in the space of six months, Americans have any number of reasons to ask their elected representatives: "What the hell was that manoeuvre?"

The latest USA Today / Gallup poll has the Democrats leading the Republicans by 53 to 38 per cent among registered voters, as large as any Democratic lead since 1982. Gallup analysts say there is a "significant probability" that the Democrats could win the 15 seats they need to take control of the House of Representatives. Some pessimistic Republicans fear they could lose as many as 30 seats. There are even those whose recurring nightmare is the loss of the Senate, too, though here the Democrats have a steeper hill to climb (a net gain of six seats, out of 33 that are being contested)....

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