I know you're busier than a one-armed paperhanger this time of year, so here's a quick quiz that won't take much time and should give you a lift. Here's how it works: Below are six situations that call out for an intelligent response. If you give the correct answer, you'll know for sure that you're smarter, more reasonable, or at least better informed than some folks who should know better.
1. As honcho of Bank of America, you commit your corporation to lending and investing $20 billion for "green" business practices. Someone points out, however, that BOA also loans money to some of the worst environmental abusers imaginable: companies that engage in Mountain Top Removal coal "mining," which is destroying large swaths of southern Appalachia. What do you do?
A. You smack yourself on the forehead and exclaim, "D'oh!"
B. You re-commit BOA to ecological responsibility, and forbid any more loans to companies that damage the environment.
C. You deflect the issue by pointing out your previous "green" initiatives, and then hope no one brings up the subject again.
2. You're listening to a radio talk-show host who rants on and on about liberals' supposed "war on Christmas" and says people in the good ol' days were more respectful of "Christian values" by saying "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays." What do you do?
A. You curse and smash your radio with a hammer.
B. You call the show and note the irony of conservative religious groups defending the celebration of Christmas, since fundamentalists used to condemn Christmas merriment as sacrilegious; and, in fact, the Puritans in Massachusetts banned anyone from celebrating Christmas.
C. You call the talk-show host, congratulate him on his courage and knowledge, and add, "I think it's about time we banned some of these foreign celebrations like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and whatever."
3. Black Democrats, increasingly unhappy with the Party's local leadership, succeed in naming an African-American to replace Sheriff Jim Pendergraph rather than the former sheriff's chosen successor. If you are a daily newspaper editor, how do you respond?
A. You run more feel-good front-page features.
B. You assign reporters to investigate the open divisions within the local Democratic Party and how they came about.
C. Your editorial department harrumphs loudly, tut-tutting like a schoolmarm over the unseemliness of it all, and bemoaning the fact that the judgment of white lawyers who thought they controlled the Democratic Party was ignored -- even though the winner had followed official procedures to a tee.
4. A month after your re-election as mayor of Charlotte, Democrats on City Council voice their anger at your famously high-handed tactics, including your habit of giving plum committee assignments to council members from your own minority party. How do you respond?
A. You distract everyone by yelling "Toga!" and chugging from a beer bong.
B. Keeping in mind that you may be running for governor, you graciously admit that you could have handled the situation better, reassign some committee seats, and vow to communicate more with council members in order to make your meetings more productive.
C. You laugh at the disgruntled council members in classic arrogant white fratboy style.
5. You are Mike Huckabee, a rising star in GOP politics, whose Presidential campaign has soared in the past couple of weeks. When reporters ask you about the previous day's very well-publicized National Intelligence Estimate, which found Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003, what do you do?
A. You jump up and down, shouting, "Well, then, now's the perfect time to bomb the hell out of those heathen ragheads!"
B. You say you are pleasantly surprised by the report, that you'll wait for more clarification from the NIE, and in the meantime it looks as if Iran may not be as dangerous as we had been led to believe.
C. You act bewildered and admit that, even though you're running for President of the most powerful country on earth, you are completely unaware of the NIE report and don't know what the reporters are talking about.
6. You are President of the United States. You are warned in advance of al-Qaeda's intention to attack targets in America; after those attacks take place, the vast majority of your intelligence sources tell you repeatedly that al-Qaeda is responsible. What do you do?
A. Go home to Texas to cut brush.
B. After the first warning, you put the government on alert, order the various intel operations to share information about the threat, and work hard to thwart the planned attacks. Post 9/11, you attack al-Qaeda hard, providing as many soldiers and as much equipment as is necessary to bring Osama bin Laden to justice.
C. You attack Afghanistan, al-Qaeda's enablers, but bungle the job and let bin Laden get away. Then you invade a country that had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks, leading critics around the world to wonder, "Whoa -- just how stupid is this guy?"
Answers: For every question, the correct answer is B. What actually happened is C.