This week, in keeping with WW's long, proud tradition of pestering politicians with questions profound and trivial, we scrutinized four candidates for federal office: Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith; his Democratic challenger, Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury; Democratic U.S. Rep. David Wu; and his Republican challenger, Jim Greenfield.
1. What is the population of Gilliam County?
Real Answer: 1,851, according to the 2000 Census. (Greenfield and Wu, whose district doesn't include Gilliam County, were not asked this question.)
2. How many strategic nuclear warheads are in the U.S. stockpile?
Real Answer: 5,949 warheads on 1,238 delivery vehicles. See www.armscontrol.org/assorted/usstrat.asp.
3. How big is the national debt?
Bradbury: $2.5 trillion
Greenfield: $6 trillion
Smith: $5 trillion
Wu: $200 trillion
Real Answer: $6.2 trillion, according to the U.S. Treasury. See www.publicdebt.treas.gov/opd/opdpenny.htm.
4. What is the poverty rate among single moms in Oregon?
Bradbury: 20 percent
Greenfield: 30 percent
Smith: "I've never heard the question formulated that way. I don't know."
Wu: 18 percent
Real Answer: 33 percent. See 2000 Census, Table DP3.
5. Which nations border Iraq?
Bradbury: Iran, Kuwait, Jordan, Turkey
Greenfield: Iran, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia
Smith: Iran, Kuwait, Georgia, Saudi Arabia,
Wu: Iran, Kuwait, Jordan, Turkey
Real Answer: Iran, Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey.
6. Name the leader of North Korea.
Bradbury: "Kim Jong"
Greenfield: "Kim Il Sung"
Smith: "Kim Il Sung the Second"
Real Answer: Kim Jong Il, who replaced his father, Kim Il Sung, in 1994.
7. How much helium is stored in the nation's Strategic Helium Reserve?
Bradbury: "No idea"
Greenfield: "A whole shitload"
Smith: "I don't know" (phone mysteriously goes dead)
Wu: "Too much"
Real Answer: Approximately 36 billion cubic feet. In 1925, military officials, worried about a "zeppelin gap" (and perhaps our ability to make funny voices), created the reserve in a gigantic underground field in Texas.