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Monday, 4 June, 2001, 07:31 GMT 08:31 UK
Has Bush moved too far right?

The decision by US senator James Jeffords to abandon the Republican Party has caused turmoil in American politics.

Mr Jeffords' defection not only handed control of the US Senate to the Democrats, but also triggered a debate among Republicans about whether their party, and the US president, George Bush, have moved too far to the right.

Mr Jeffords argued that he had not abandoned his party, but rather the party, and particularly President Bush, had abandoned him on issues such as education, appointments to the judiciary, tax and spending, missile defence and the environment.

When George Bush came to power he offered a new era of inclusive, bipartisan politics.

What happened to that? Have President Bush and the Republican Party moved too far to the right?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

He has proven unable to rule his family

Mark Hess, San Francisco, USA
Bush was not elected to lead the US, but rather to manage the nation. Sadly, he has proven unable to rule his family, let alone a nation of almost 300 million as he attempt to transpose "American values" on the rest of the world.
Mark Hess, San Francisco, USA

Has President Bush moved too far to the right? Quite the contrary. In my opinion, he has waffled too much to try to appease the left. I wish he would stop trying to be like Neville Chamberlain and try to be more like Winston Churchill.
Tom Zacharias, Florida, USA

It appears to me that total isolation is on the cards and it is going to be a real danger
Daniel Pilling, St Helens, England

Bush hasn't moved to the right at all. His position from the beginning has been the same. A number of people thought the closeness of the election would have made him change his policies, but that hasn't happened. He favours a bipartisan approach to most things, but the Democrats have their own ideas of what bipartisan means. To them, it means their way. To Bush, it means his way. Don't look for any meaningful "bipartisonship".
Jim Hubbell, USA

The Bush administration is all about wanting it all right now. Conservation takes too long but we can build more power stations and drill for oil real quick and the environment can go to hell for following generations to deal with. The biggest problem with instant gratification as far as Bush is concerned, is that it takes too damned long to say!

Bush was a conservative during the election, and he's a conservative now

Rob, USA
Bush was a conservative during the election, and he's a conservative now. But that's not his problem; his problem is that his administration is needlessly abrasive in its conservatism. How much effort would it have taken for Dick Cheney and Ari Fleischer to simply preach conservatism? Why did they have to emphasize that wastefulness was the American way of life? And why did Bush insist on conspicuously excluding Senator Jeffords, one of the Senate's strongest advocates for education, from an event that featured a teacher from his home state of Vermont? Bush could get away with his conservatism if he avoided these unnecessary confrontations.
Rob, USA

Yeah, Bush moved a bit far to the right. His main problem is a perception that he is not representing the majority of the political sentiment in the US. Let's face it, the majority of the voters in the US are middle-of-the-road pragmatists; when voters perceive any sign of shift to the right or left - they get scared. If Bush alienates more "moderate" Republicans, he will have the impossible task to sell himself as a viable candidate in 2004. (The irony is that I don't think his personal views are anywhere close to the right-wing, conservative agenda.)
George, USA

Bush is not liberal in his political views. The only reason he is meeting with the Dalai Lama and other Asian countries is because he is interested in their business. He sees the potential of over 1 billion people in India alone as consumers for American products. Do you honestly believe he even knew who the Dalai Lama was before he met him? I highly doubt it. This country's leaders have no morals, big business are our leaders. So whatever is best for them is best for the rest of us, apparently.
Brian B, Detroit, USA

Yes, Bush went too far to the right

Tony, USA
Yes, Bush went too far to the right, and there is no indication that he was ever near the middle, or that he wants to be. But this is good, because more moderates are questioning their place in the Republican Party. Star Wars is probably history, and good riddance to it.
Tony, USA

Jeffords' defection is stupid. He just wants his 15 minutes of fame. He wants to pass policy and be heard, so he changes to independent. As an independent will he be more powerful or have more success pursuing his interests? Bush hasn't moved anywhere, it's a publicity stunt.
Scott, Boston,USA

No, he hasn't shifted too far to the right. He's conservative, get over it. Jeffords is the one who deceived his constituents. He ran as a Republican, now he says he's an independent. I say good riddance to him.
Doug Moyers, USA

I guess it is about time we got a third party into office

Brad, USA
Republicans are "too far to the right". Democrats are "too far to the left". I guess it is about time we got a third party into office.
Brad, USA

Bush has always been far right. He pretended to be in the centre strictly for political purposes. He was selected by the GOP as their candidate because he would do exactly as he's told. As for Jeffords' "defection", blame the arrogance of the GOP and their intolerance of independent thinkers. Republicans weren't whining when several Dems switched parties. This administration is a sham, self-serving, and much too secretive. The UK should make no mistake, this administration will sell you out if it serves their needs.
Keith Hagerman, Maryland, USA

While George II's first 100 days may seem to be unfocused, he did: 1) Manage to push through an overdue tax cut. 2) Implement cohesive national education reform. 3) Bluntly inform California that they need to learn how to manage their internal affairs and not look to Uncle Sam for a handout as a result of their electricity mismanagement. 4) Reset the tone with China. Hopefully he will leverage US/China trade for the betterment of Chinese human rights. 5) Tweak the French! Jolly Good.

In my opinion, he'll never be right

Edward L. Nemil, US
I don't think Bush is too right; in my opinion, he'll never be right.
Edward L. Nemil, US

GWB, like his father, is a disastrous conservative president whose political claims are severely embedded in right-wing ideologies. The U.S. will not see any progressive moves from this president, but we have to keep struggling so that, come re-election time, the Bush regime will see where its true place is - outside progressive U.S. history.
Tracy, USA

GWB has always been a conservative. He has also never been one to bend to "mainstream" thought. This is a man who does what he believes is right and in the best interests of the great country he was elected (three times!) to lead. It's called Leadership, which is something the USA has been sorely lacking since the poll-driven policy setting days of the Clinton administration.
Richard, State of Texas, USA

Bush is doing the right thing

Gavin Pearson, Detroit, MI, USA
Bush is doing the right thing; he is ensuring that any major policy decision is ratified by taking the proposal to the electorate, allowing them to tell their representatives and then taking a vote. This is true democracy. He has been very responsive on all the key issues affecting US Foreign and Domestic policy. If this was unsuccessful he would have no mandate but it is, on this basis I would say he has everything absolutely as it should be.
Gavin Pearson, Detroit, MI, USA

I personally believe that Dubya has always been extremely far to the right. All anyone needed to do to know this was to look at his record in Texas. As for Senator Jeffords, his defection should be of no consequence to the people of Vermont. They elected Mr. Jeffords, they did not elect the Republican Party. Jeffords has been voting with the Democrats on many issues for many years. I truly hope that more of our legislators take his lead (Republicans and Democrats). I would like to see the voters choosing candidates for their individual abilities and ideals, rather than their associations with political organizations.
Alycia Brashear, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Bush should govern from the centre considering his mandate; he lost the popular vote, and won Florida by a technical fault (ballot paper design). He will govern from the right as long as he is led by Cheney (the man who opposed banning cop killer bullets, voted against Nelson Mandela's release from prison etc). Bush is capable of governing either from the left, right or centre - it all depends on the advisors who lead him, because I don't think Bush has any well thought opinions about any topic.
Shekar, USA

George W. Bush has easily been one of the worst presidents this nation has ever had

John, USA
George W. Bush has easily been one of the worst presidents this nation has ever had. Don't expect a second term out of this failure.
John, USA

It is not whether Bush and the Republican Party have moved too far to the right, they have just lost a sense of reality. Some may disagree with this, but the truth is usually harder to swallow. As for those who do not live in this country saying that this country needs him, just remember that, when your country needs us and Bush and the Republican Party refuse to help.
Jeffrey A. Seiler, USA

Of course Bush is too far to the political right. George Wallace, that bastion of ultra-conservative politics, said near the end of his life that he was too liberal for today's Republican Party. Bush leads a minority coalition of the influential and the ignorant. Our Midwesterners moan about the federal government, while turning a blind eye to the fact that their very existence was funded through Washington. No railroads, Homestead Act, highways, dams, open range, timberlands, mining subsidies - no Midwest. In America, if you vote Republican and are not among the wealthy, you are a fool. Even then Republican conservatism provides short-term gains for the rich who fiddle while Rome burns.
Brandon Bittner, USA

To quote a man which most of you "Brits" may recall...I believe this will be George W's finest hour.
Terence, USA

He's actually showing more intelligence than people give him credit for

Lanny Carruthers, USA
Many are criticizing President Bush for his energy policies. He's actually showing more intelligence than people give him credit for. Demand outpacing supply leads to higher prices! It's elementary! And many liberals in this country cannot understand the economic theory of supply and demand. California leads the nation in conservation and environmental policies and look what condition they are in - rolling blackouts!
Lanny Carruthers, USA

It seems from our perspective in the UK that President Bush indeed was elected on Caring Conservatism, that is, he cares very much to push through a Right Wing agenda despite winning a minority vote! He needs to tread carefully for the next three and a half years as he has no moral mandate for his policies. He needs to stay moderate until the next Presidential Election. It is one thing to win an election on a minority vote where the opposition votes are divided, but the Democrats had more votes alone. No mandate, no majority electoral vote, so no authority for a zealous right wing agenda!
James Price, United Kingdom

I think George W is just pandering to the have-it-all culture

Amy, UK
I think George W is just pandering to the have it all, rights-without-responsibility social Darwinism culture that the US seems intent on stamping all over the world. Instead of telling people to use energy more thoughtfully and efficiently, the man decides to build more power stations, including nuclear ones! He must be stopped before he destroys the planet for the people, animals and plants that will be there after us.
Amy, UK

I rather think Mr. Jeffords had planned to defect from the Republican Party for some time. Rather than try and change his party's position and work from within, he chose to change allegiance only 5 months into a new presidency, which strikes me as rather odd. GWB can move as far to the right as he possibly can in my book - I voted for him because I am taxed up to the eyeballs and saw most of my tax dollars being spent on social programmes that do nothing except perpetuate the cult of need. As for the energy crisis - the 8 years of democrat rule did nothing for Californians and their vast energy needs but now it all becomes GWB's fault. I don't think so. We are seeing a man trying to give the US back to Americans. What on earth is so wrong with that?
Di Stewart, USA

The USA under Clinton was heading in a Marxist direction. Bush needs to adhere to the precepts of the US Constitution (if you call that heading towards the right). Jeffords' betrayal of the Republican Party is a demonstration of a liberal infiltrating a conservative party, and then causing dissention.
Andy Hill, USA

Bush hasn't moved at all - or should I say his "advisors" haven't

David, Scotland
Bush hasn't moved at all - or should I say his "advisors" haven't. What they did very cleverly was to hoodwink the American people into believing they were moderates and now we have the most powerful nation in the world forming policy based on the debts owed to big business and the religious right. Any event, such as the recent "defection" which makes it more difficult for Bush (or "President in all but name" Cheney) to push through this agenda must be welcomed.
David, Scotland,

Managing to alienate the rest of the world in 100 days is pretty extreme, especially when you don't even possess an electoral mandate to implement your policies. Mind you, we're talking about a country where banning guns from school is considered dangerously liberal and a population who, as is shown in some of the other comments here, have very little idea that the rest of the world even exists.
Rob Williams, London, UK

I think Dubya is just great! The more the Europeans dislike him, the more I want to support our President. I was appalled by the lack of support given by Europe to US during the China spy plane crisis and its disapproval of weapons sales to Taiwan. As long as those in Europe hate Bush, I'm backing him all the way!
Albert Cheng, US

Bush has gone a wild spree of sending unpopular conservative policies to the floor of national debate. It's foolish, it's contrary to everything his campaign stood for, and he's now paying the price with the defection of his own. I suggest he soon show unity in Congress by supporting a moderate Democratic proposal, such as investing in Social Security or a Gun Control Bill, or he will risk losing everything come November 2004.
Jason Puckett, USA

His country needs him

STC, England
Any chance someone could persuade this Jeffords chap to run for the Republican nomination next time round? His country needs him.
STC, England

In the US, power no longer comes from the barrel of a gun, it comes from the electron tube of the TV. James Jeffords move to be an Independent will hopefully stymie the Bush/Cheney energy plan which has become "necessary" due to a concocted energy crisis. There are many other intentions by this administration that will also be thwarted. To say that many are relieved that this mad mandate has come to a grinding halt is an understatement. Curiously, one item that hasn't yet been discussed in the national media is the missile defence system and how that is definitely threatened. Perhaps by not mentioning it, they can make a deal in a year or two from now, quietly sneaking it past the attention of the populace. Come watch TV over here, come read the papers, in a year or two you'll forget the name of the capital of England.
Rhett Muse, USA

More guns, more greed, more pseudo-Christians, more capitalist environmental destruction. Americans are being sold their demise through marketing which thrives on social imbalance: greed, indifference, and violence. Our country may be seen as Faustian, and Bush as Mephistopheles. More than happy to lead us into hell.
Brian Lapp, USA

It's difficult to understand how Bush can be accused of moving too far to the right when his tax relief legislation garnered 16 Democratic votes, and his educational legislation also has broad Democratic support. To my fellow Americans who are enamoured with the socialist politics of Europe, I suggest you spend some time there first before wishing their ineffective results on us. Considering the enormous taxes they pay, they have very little to show for it.
Rich Vose, California, USA

The people choose Jeffords not just by his party affiliation, but by his election platform and his past results in the Capitol. I am sure that Jeffords will continue to fulfil his promises during elections as an independent.
Leonard Tso, Hong Kong

Bush is selling the American People on the idea that there is a 'bogeyman' that they need to be afraid of

Dave Adams, United States
Bush has definitely moved too far to the right. His campaign promises were not totally sincere. Since, he was elected he has broken one promise after another.
Bush is selling the American People on the idea that there is a 'bogeyman' that they need to be afraid of. I don't believe it. But, for those who think the US can't defend itself or its friends is foolhardy. So, why do we have to have a fellow who is so determined to build this NMD? Why can Bush just stick with his promises to clean up the environment and do all the other things he promised. I don't get it.
Dave Adams, United States

Tony, I don't know where you get your facts, but Jeffords was elected by his constituents based on who he was, not his party affiliation.
In fact, Vermont has a long history of independent candidates and I sure have heard very many people in Vermont (except die-hard republican) who are disappointed with their Senator. Saying Bush is a moderate is like saying the crusades was like a holiday trip for some errant knights.
Paul Warreb, USA

Yes, the Republicans as a whole have moved too far to the right and have alienated the moderates in their own party. The Democrats are no better, becoming shrill and Liberal to counter the Right Wing and the Moderates are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Mike Y., USA

The people of Great Britain have lost too much freedom to socialism. I believe President Bush is very moderate.
Robert Probstfeld, USA

Senator Jeffords perception is accurate and his actions admirable. The American oligarchy is out of touch, and their cloistered denial of reality has been revealed.
Jeffrey Iverson, California

Bush is just a mirror reflection of the sad state that is the US

Jonathan Reynaga, England
It is not a matter of whether Bush has moved too far to the right, but rather the simple fact that the US as a whole has moved too far to the right. In the US, contrary to what they believe, people's values are predominated by conservative, not liberal values. Bush is just a mirror reflection of the sad state that is the US.
Jonathan Reynaga, England

Has the BBC moved too far to the left?
James Murphy, USA

Having listened to Mr Bush while he campaigned for the presidency I don't think he has changed much, if at all. He started as "right" as he is, and he's been running with big-business for years. Nothing new there. Still, he's by far preferable to Clinton or Gore.
Vo Idstan, United States

The Bush administration is anti-intellectual, anti-science, and anti-mainstream. It is founded on an emotional belief in its own righteousness, gut instinct, and the countless rationalisations that Big Business gives for its more pernicious practices. It is a poor government, internally divided and weakly lead. And in the American political system, it will last for a horrible four full years.
Manu, Antwerp, Belgium

George W. Bush has always been on the extreme right

Tobin Alexander Jones, USA
George W. Bush has always been on the extreme right. He just used the campaign to try to hide this. Now, a member of his own party has left and the Democrats have the Senate until the next election, barring further party switches. Many Democrats, leftists and centrists predicted that Bush would be nothing more than a puppet controlled by big business and this is exactly what he is.
Tobin Alexander Jones, USA

Has Bush moved at all? I do not think so and was surprised, given his background, that he managed to hoodwink so many Americans, including the press, into believing that he wanted a bi-partisan approach to his policy making. I applaud Jeffords for his decision to leave the Republicans after Bush had made so many contentious decisions.
Bernard Khoo, Singapore

The Senator betrayed his constituents

Tony Kimball, US
The Senator betrayed his constituents who voted for him on the basis of his party affiliation. The current Bush administration is the first reasonably moderate administration that this country has seen since Dwight Eisenhower.
Tony Kimball, US

I don't think Bush is really surprising. He has no opinions, instead he is led by Dick Cheney and his father. I think from the start of his presidency Cheney knew that his portfolio would eventually be constrained but in the meantime he wanted to move as quickly as possible to help his friends in the energy industry.
David B., USA

The notion that Bush has veered too far to the right is an obfuscation of the reality of American politics. Policy is determined by money. Bush does not even bother to hold his nose and is transparent on this issue. His main sponsors were the oil and petrochemical industry, the major US power companies, the US insurance cartels, and the large arms contractors. As a quid pro quo he jettisoned the Kyoto agreement, immediately attacked Iraq, reverted to "Cold War" mode with China, ignored Russia, announced plans to "preserve the US way of life" by increasing consumption and development of power resources. The proffered idea that the democrats represent more liberal views and the republicans represent the conservative agenda is groundless.
Galahad Wang, Slovakia

The whole country has talked itself onto a one party state

Tony, Grenada, both UK/USA
Last year I voted with my feet, and left the country, I don't think that Bush has gone too far to the right; the whole country has talked itself onto a one party state, all this talk of being "bi-partisan" more or less rules out any real debate, as to oppose anything is to be labeled "partisan" and therefore not in the best interest of the country.
Tony, Grenada, both UK/USA passports

The simple truth of the matter is that Mr. Bush is simply implementing the policies and legislation that he campaigned on. He is actually doing what he said he would do during the campaign. He has stayed on target, which is actually quite refreshing for a change considering the last eight years of American politics. Concerning the Jeffords switch, that was really no surprise. He was, after all, a Republican in name only. His switch was simply done out of political expediency over the changing voter demographics of the state of Vermont.
Michael Chupp, USA

Bush has restored a balance after the sloppy policies of Clinton. The world needs a few more like Bush in Europe particularly, Right is not always right but it certainly beats Left any day.
G.S.Brown, New Zealand

All the commotion is only because Jeffords disturbed the fifty-fifty balance

Andrej, Russia/USA
All the commotion is only because Jeffords disturbed the fifty-fifty balance. He is not the first parliamentarian to switch to a different party, he will not be the last. In a two-party system, this is an inevitable bi-product of a party's movement to conformity. It is amazing how many different groups are clumped together in these "parties", which in most European countries would have been separate organizations: environmentalists, social-democrats, christian reactionists, liberal democrats, etc.--they have to be re-shuffled from time to time.
Andrej, Russia/USA

George Bush is a conservative and will do conservative work: respect for the rule of law and the individual....also he stands for small government and less government control of the people...these are at the base of a true democracy. He is also being a leader and is setting a conservative agenda. The liberal media (BBC) doesn't like this. The way the question was asked reveals this.
Douglas Green, English

Hooray! This has many beneficial ramafications, including that Jesse Helms no longer is Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee (and hence can no longer single-handedly wreck our standing at the United Nations any longer).
Kelly Bradley, Seattle, USA

Even among Republicans, Bush is a divider not a uniter.

Stephen Siemens, USA
When Bush campaigned as a "uniter not a divider" many thought that it would be easy to unite a Republican Congress and a Republican President. With Jeffords' defection we find that even among Republicans, Bush is a divider not a uniter.
Stephen Siemens, USA

Don't forget that over one half of the voters in the last election knew Bush was too conservative. That his own party is repulsed by his views is a sign that they are beginning to tune into the reality of what the general public feels. They too are sick of the Republican, rubberstamp machine.
Suzanne In Connecticut, USA

Has Bush moved to the right a little bit too much? As a die hard Republican my heart tells me no but my mind says yes. Bush said he was a healer but it is obvious from the rumblings in the GOP that even Bush's own party is upset with his agenda. Bush's attitude and that of the hardliners in the GOP is driving many centralists and moderates away. I predict that Bush will have a hard sell for many of his more controversial ideas.
Paul Barden, USA

The left/right classifcation is out of date; ALL politicians are compromised by the need for money.

Dan S, USA
The left/right classifcation is out of date; the middle is socially liberal and economically conservative. Not that it matters, ALL politicians are compromised by the need for money. A US senator from a large state needs to raise $125/hr every day for the entire six-year term to fund the next campaign. What happens in the shadows is what matters. Bush isn't really relevant. He is part of the public dumb show called blood sport politics. At least your backbenchers are honest, of modest means and principled.
Dan S, USA

Bush has definitely gone to the far right, after pretending to be in the middle during the election campaign. He has no one but himself to blame for Senator Jeffords' departure from the party, thus losing the senate. From the beginning it has been a "my way, or the highway" attitude from his government. It is amusing to watch his aides put a desperate spin into all this. I hope some lessons are learnt, but so far Bush seems to be making blunder after blunder.
Roseanne Singer, USA

Rather than move to the right, Bush has moved into the pockets of big business

Henry Coleman, UK
Rather than move to the right, Bush has moved into the pockets of big business. The fact that their cabinet is made up of multi-millionaires and oilmen suggests Bush and the Republicans are businessmen and not politicians.
Henry Coleman, UK

Has Bush shown any serious indication of adopting a bi-partisan approach since his inaugural speech? Not as far as I can see. Despite the fact that he's only in power due to a constitutional anomaly, it seems he will try and push through as many short-term, populist policies as possible in order to try and gain re-election in four years' time. His reckless abandonment of the Kyoto treaty is a good example of this: painful in the short term, vital if you care about your children in thirty years' time. Still, that's democracy for you.
Jon, UK

Thank you, James Jeffords! It's so good to know that we have at least one person of integrity in our Government. I wonder if we'll even have elections in 2004, or even next year. Hopefully, we will and next year we will elect more folk with integrity to Congress who will fight this illegitimate regime and restore democracy to our country.
Sonrisa, Cincinnati, USA

The Jeffords affair highlights the irony of it all - just as Bush and the Republicans won the presidency without the popular vote, so have the Democrats won the Senate without any voting by the constituents of Vermont.
M. M. Zaman, UK in US

On many issues, President Bush is a liberal at heart

Rahul Mahajan, UK/India
On domestic American issues, I suggest that President Bush has probably moved too far to the right. But this is more than offset by his pragmatic foreign policy. He has correctly identified China as an emerging threat to international peace and stability, and Bush therefore remains a very popular President amongst Asian democracies such as India and Taiwan. Moreover his concern with the struggles of persecuted Tibet and his meeting with the Dalai Lama are not rightwing at all; the point being that on many issues, President Bush is a liberal at heart.
Rahul Mahajan, UK / India

Margaret Thatcher when elected said, "Where there is discord, may we bring harmony", and proceeded to do the exact opposite. George Bush said that he would try to heal the split in the nation and proceeded to do the exact opposite. At least the USA doesn't have to go through 18 years of hell.
Alan, Bradford, UK

Bush probably doesn't know his right from his left ...
Martyn, UK

The Bush administration is a fairly centrist party by traditional standards

George Milton, USA/Italy
It is interesting how the definition of left, centre, and right seems to migrate about. In the US, people labelled "centre right" today would have often been labelled as left as recently as the 1970's. My opinion is that the Bush administration is a fairly centrist party by traditional standards. It is only this increasing reliance on government "solutions" to ordinary people's daily problems that classifies them as right. Mr Jefferds abandoned the Republican Party some time ago and his defection simply formalised the arrangement. Its timing may have been more strongly motivated by his desire to maintain federal price controls (artificially inflating the price of dairy products in Vermont) than on a general philosophical problem. The Bush administration is generally opposed to price controls.
George Milton, USA and Italy

Thank goodness there was one Republican with the decency to reject Bush's far-right policies. Now there is at least a chance that the Senate can put a stop to the madness of "Star Wars" and Bush's planned environmental catastrophes.
Paul R, Wales

Moved too far to the Right? No, he was always to the Right. As he said himself, people "misunderestimated" him and are learning to their cost that "Caring Conservatism" was a sham.
Peter Tallon, Geneva, Switzerland

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24 May 01 | Americas
Rebel tips US Senate balance

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