Test your liberalism

T.A. Frank of The New Republic offers a quiz (of sorts) setting up his opinions as a sort of gold standard for liberalism and then comparing them to the opinions of others at various points on the political spectrum.

Rather arbitrarily, he has chosen George W. Bush to represent the Right, political commentator David Gergen to represent the Center and the news agency of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (whose writing reminds me of some Harry’s Place commenters) to represent the Left.

See how you match up.

Update: If you can’t access The New Republic article, go here.

Desperate Measure
by T. A. Frank

In early 2001, only weeks after George W. Bush had moved to Washington, the Los Angeles Times was already noting the president’s “success in shifting the parameters of debate.” At the time, the White House was suggesting some strong conservative stuff–school vouchers, 1.6 trillion-dollar tax cuts, that sort thing–and, suddenly, the old center was looking a little bit left. As it turned out, things were just getting started.

For liberals, this has emerged as a problem: If present trends continue, the term “liberal” may eventually come to mean something like “conservative who occasionally disagrees with G. Gordon Liddy.” To fight back, TNR Online has decided unilaterally to reclaim the parameters of the debate. We’ll allow the Bush administration to hold down the right end of the spectrum, but no longer will we permit The Nation to represent the far left–that job will instead fall to the dedicated journalists at KCNA, the news agency of North Korea. As for the middle, that can still be represented by David Gergen. (We would have chosen David Broder but, unlike Gergen, Broder has occasionally been unavailable for televised comment.)

So that readers can participate in this change of perspective, we have devised a diagnostic test to pick out true liberals. Each question will highlight a prominent political figure and offer three assessments of him or her: one from the right (Bush), one from the center (Gergen), and one from the left (North Korea). Readers should pick the assessment that most closely matches their own. At the bottom of each question will appear the correct liberal answer: that of T.A. Frank. As always, anyone with views that fall to the right of T.A. Frank must be considered slow-witted and backward, and anyone with views that fall to the left must be considered naïve and shrill.


1. About Condoleezza Rice, I agree with:

A. George W. Bush: “America has benefited from the wise counsel of Dr. Condoleezza Rice and our family has been enriched by our friendship with this wonderful person.”

B. David Gergen: “Listen, there’s nothing to say that she won’t be a terrific secretary of state. She may well be. She’s obviously a woman of enormous stature.”

C. North Korea: “Condoleezza Rice [is] a handmaid of the United States’ aggressive external policy and a faithful spokeswoman for the U.S. munitions monopolies.”

Correct answer: B. While North Korea deserves credit for use of the terms “munitions monopolies” and the under-used “handmaid,” the correct liberal answer is Gergen’s, since it’s true that Rice’s tenure may indeed prove “terrific”–in the original (example: “terrific conflagration”) sense of the word.

2. About Dick Cheney, I agree with:

A. George W. Bush: “The fact that this outstanding man is willing to serve speaks to the power of our compassionate conservative message and to the promise of our country.”

B. David Gergen: “[Cheney] is not a dynamite speaker. He’s not an electrifying speaker, but I do think he speaks from authority.”

C. North Korea: “We have long considered Cheney a mentally deranged person steeped in the inveterate enmity toward our system as the boss of the U.S. neo-conservative forces.”

Correct answer: C. North Korea sums up the vice president harshly but, in truth, not unfairly. In fact, it’s to Cheney’s credit that he exhibits “inveterate enmity” towards the North Korean system, a sentiment normal liberals would share. In fact, this description leaves little for liberals to dislike about Cheney–apart from the mentally deranged neoconservative boss-man thing.

3. About Fidel Castro, I agree with:

A. North Korea: “We sincerely rejoice over the achievements made by the fraternal Cuban government and people in the work to defend the sovereignty of the country and the gains of socialism under the leadership of Fidel Castro Ruz.”

B. David Gergen: “I think he almost belongs in the league of the former Iraqi foreign minister. He is obsolete. It’s just a question of when he falls, not whether, a question of when his regime falls.”

C. George W. Bush: “The dictator welcomes sex tourism.”

Correct answer: C. Bush gets credit for having something unexpected to say about the problem. Liberals should appreciate this.

4. About Undersecretary of State John Bolton, I agree with:

A. The Bush administration, speaking through Condoleezza Rice: “[Bolton] is a tough-minded diplomat, he has a strong record of success and he has a proven track record of effective multilateralism.”

B. David Gergen: “Maybe Mr. Bolton at the State Department will be moved up to the number two position.”

C. North Korea: “We know that there are several hawks within the current U.S. administration, but we have yet to see such an outrageous human scum as Bolton.”

Correct answer: B. Gergen makes a wrong prediction and fails to say much of anything. And sometimes, that’s good enough.

5. About Donald Rumsfeld, I agree with:

A. George W. Bush: “Sometimes perhaps his demeanor is rough and gruff, but beneath that rough and gruff, no-nonsense demeanor is a good human being who cares deeply about the military, and deeply about the grief that war causes.”

B. David Gergen: “Donald Rumsfeld, I’ve known him for over 30 years. He’s a very honorable man, he’s a brave man. If he decides that he, indeed, is standing in the way of an effective prosecution of the war in Iraq, effective prosecution in the war against terrorism, he will fall on his own sword. … I don’t think he will cling to power.”

C. North Korea: “[Rumsfeld is] a political dwarf, human scum, or hysteric … a human butcher and fascist tyrant who puts a vampire who enjoys blood to shame.”

Correct answer: C. Now, admittedly, it’s not the perfect answer, but, reviewing the Gergen and Bush answers, there is little choice. We mustn’t let the excessive be the enemy of the good.

6. When Yasir Arafat was alive, I generally agreed with:

A. George W. Bush: “Mr. Arafat has failed as a leader.”

B. David Gergen: “Arafat is the leader of the Palestinians. We don’t like him. We don’t trust him. But you have to deal sometimes with people you hate.”

C. North Korea: “A close friend of the Korean people, President Yasser Arafat visited the DPRK six times from October 1981 to June 1993. … He was awarded the title of Hero of the DPRK during his first Korean visit.”

Correct answer: Long believed by liberals to be B–until it turned out, more simply, to be A.

7. About Vladimir Putin, I agree with:

A. George W. Bush: “I respect President Putin’s vision for Russia, a country at peace within its borders with its neighbors in the world, a country in which democracy and freedom and rule of law thrive. … Plus, I like him; he’s a good fellow to spend quality time with.”

B. David Gergen: “I think [Bush] let his words get away, get ahead of his thinking, particularly when he said, ‘I trust him’ or ‘he’s trustworthy,’ and ‘I looked into–was able to get a sense of his soul.’ In 90 minutes you got a sense of his soul? Please. So I don’t really think the president meant that. I think he was trying to be polite.”

C. North Korea: “Under the leadership of President V.V. Putin the Russian people are working hard to build a powerful Russia, achieve the stability of the country and national unity and defend the security and interests of the state.”

Correct answer: B, but only because of a paucity of options. Bush and Pyongyang are in agreement on Putin. Gergen must mistakenly believe that Bush and Pyongyang are not in agreement on Putin. Liberals (or the sane) are confused.

8. About President Bush, I agree with:

A. George W. Bush: “I know how to lead and I’ve shown good judgment.”

B. David Gergen: “Give the man his due: George W. Bush is emerging as one of the boldest, most audacious presidents in modern history.”

C. North Korea: “Bush is, in fact, a thrice-cursed fascist tyrant and man-killer. … a political idiot and human trash.”

Correct answer: At various times, each of these. For the sake of grounding, though, maybe liberals should make it a B, stay wary of A, and save C for special occasions like weddings.