Speaking as a former game show champ, I want my president to know a lot of facts. Rock-solid facts. World capitals, world leaders, currencies, the works.
Not facts for their own sake, but because knowing facts is the residue of knowing a lot about the world and how it works. It’s a handy test for global savvy.
That’s why I’m unveiling today a major quiz our presidential and vice-presidential candidates could take, in public, to replace one of the usual stultifying “debates.” Line the four of them up, turn on the cameras and roll the questions out there. If they can’t answer ’em all (and let’s be honest, I had to look some up myself), we’d at least learn a lot by seeing them reason through the possible answers.
Are the questions hard? Sure! It’s a hard job. Our presidents ought to be savvy about world politics. Going back a few years, it seems like both John Kennedy and Richard Nixon might have scored 90%-plus on a test like this. Why not now?
So take the quiz and see if you’re qualified to be a presidential candidate. Answers are listed at the end of the post.
PART ONE: OUR NEIGHBORS
(Let’s start things off with a neighborly hint: the leaders in these first two questions are male.)
Q: Name the prime minister of Canada. When did he take office? Who takes over if he dies?
Q: Name the president of Mexico. What’s his political party? When must he next run for office?
Bonus Q: Which country has the bigger population? Which country exports more petroleum to the United States?
PART TWO: EUROPE
Q: Does Switzerland have a queen? Does Sweden? Does Sweden border Switzerland?
Q: Name the Scandinavian country that isn’t part of the European Union. What is strategically important about that country?
Q: Name any 5 European countries that don’t use the Euro.
Keeping-it-real bonus Q: At current exchange rates, about how many Snickers bars would 10 Euros buy you at Stop ‘n Shop?
Q: Let’s hop back to 1949: Name 8 of the 12 founding member nations of NATO. (Hint: not Germany and not Spain.) Bonus point for the one starting with ‘L’.
Q: Which two nations are expected to join NATO in 2009?
PART THREE: THE MIDDLE EAST
Q: What is the second-largest city in Iraq?
Q: Who is the prime minister of Iraq? What is his religion?
Q: Right between the ‘I’s: What country or countries lie between Iran and Israel? Between Iran and India?
Q: What is the current health status of Israeli leader Ariel Sharon? Name the new political party he created in 2005. What does the name mean?
Q: Which Middle Eastern ruler appeared on an American sci-fi TV show in 1996?
What was the show? What kind of outfit did he wear? Should you mention this when he visits the White House?
PART FOUR: ASIA AND AFRICA
Q: If we went out to worship together in Turkey, what kind of building would we most likely visit?
Q: Who followed Nelson Mandela as president of South Africa? Is he still in office?
Q: What’s the most populous country in Africa? Is its population bigger or smaller than America’s?
Q: What are the names and home countries of the last three Secretaries-General of the United Nations? (Remember, you’ll be helping decide whether to retain the current one in 2012.)
Q: What body of water lies between China and Taiwan?
Keeping-it-real bonus Q: Just as a rough guess, how long would a Chinese warship take to cross that body of water?
That’s it. Put down your pencils. Well done. Let’s look at the answers.
ANSWERS: PART ONE
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper took office in February of 2006. If he died or were incapacitated, his party (the Conservative Party) would have the right to choose a new leader to replace him. In the Canadian system, the party in power determines the PM. Someone like Defence Minister Peter MacKay might be a good replacement bet.
(Aside: The role of deputy prime minister is strictly honorary in Canada — and in fact, nobody has that title right now.)
In Mexico, President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (often called just Felipe Calderón) is a member of the (rather conservative) National Action Party. He took office in December of 2006 and — trick question! — cannot be reelected. Mexican presidents are restricted to one six-year term. Calderón is out in 2012.
Canada exports more petroleum to the U.S. by far: currently about 2.4 million barrels per day vs. Mexico’s 1.3 million barrels per day.
ANSWERS: PART TWO
Switzerland has no royal family. Sweden’s Queen Silvia was born in 1943. (Her daughter, Princess Madeleine, looks a little like Sarah Palin.) The two countries are about 600 miles apart, separated by both Germany and the Baltic Sea.
Norway is not part of the European Union, having voted down membership in 1994. Why is it strategically important? North Sea oil. “Only Saudi Arabia and Russia export more oil than Norway,” says the CIA World Factbook.
European countries that don’t use the Euro: Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Albania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Denmark, Sweden, the UK, Switzerland, Liechtenstein.
The Euro exchange rate at this writing is 1.447 Euro to the dollar. So let’s just say 10 Euros equal roughly 14 bucks. A Snickers bar is about 79 cents (bargain price!) so that’s about… 18 Snickers. Give yourself a point if you had anything between 15 and 20.
The original member nations of NATO, in alphabetical order: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States. (Bonus point if you named Luxembourg!)
Croatia and Albania are expected to join NATO in 2009.
ANSWERS: PART THREE
Nouri al-Maliki has been the prime minister of Iraq since 2006. He is a Shia Muslim.
Iran and Israel are separated by Iraq plus Jordan or Syria, depending on which route you take. Iran and India are separated by Pakistan (and Afghanistan, if you take a northerly route).
Former prime minister Ariel Sharon remains in a coma in Chaim Sheba Medical Center. He has been unconscious since his stroke in January of 2006, just a few months after he founded the centrist Kadima party. Kadima is a Hebrew word meaning “forward.”
Jordan’s Abdullah II had a cameo role on Star Trek: Voyager two years before he became king. He was dressed in the green-and-black tunic of a science officer. Abdullah went to school in the UK and the US, where he apparently became a Trek fan, so it’s probably cool to mention it in your White House meeting.
ANSWERS: PART FOUR
In Turkey we’d go to a mosque. Turkey is almost entirely Sunni Muslim.
Thabo Mbeki, Mandela’s longtime supporter, followed him as president in 1999. Mbeki just announced his resignation after being forced out by factions of his party, the African National Congress.
The Strait of Formosa lies between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan. The strait is about 110 miles wide for most of the length of Taiwan, and a typical destroyer can reach speeds of about 30 knots — just over 34 miles per hour. So it’s, say, about a three-hour trip. Not that such a trip would ever be made, of course.
That’s 38 questions in all. How’d you do?
If you got 20 or more right: Pat yourself on the back, honored citizen.
If you answered 34 or more right: We’ll look forward to seeing you on the ticket in 2012.