The Corner

Re: Hank Johnson’s Response

Jonah — For what it’s worth, a friend of mine tipped me to the Hank Johnson video last Thursday. I decided not to post it because, looking at the full transcript, it seemed likely to me that Johnson was, as he explains below, using a metaphor to explain his (probably insignificant) concerns about Guam’s ecosystem. Here’s the full transcript:

REP. HANK JOHNSON (D-GA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have no questions. Well, on second thought, I will ask about –

REP. SKELTON: Go right ahead.

REP. JOHNSON: Thank you, sir. I will ask about Guam. The water facilities, the facilities, the infrastructure to deliver water, electrical generation facilities, landfills or some way of doing away with trash and garbage, sewage capacity, those kinds of things on the island as it is now are already, those systems are termed as being inadequate.

Is that correct?

ADM. WILLARD: Congressman, I think that there are different levels of adequacy and insufficiencies associated with Guam infrastructure.

[Video clip picks up here]

REP. JOHNSON: Now, this is an island that at its widest level is, what, 12 miles from shore to shore and at its smallest level, smallest location it’s seven miles between one shore and the other. Is that correct?

ADM. WILLARD: I don’t have the exact dimensions, but to your point, sir, I think Guam is a small island.

REP. JOHNSON: Very small island and about 24 miles, if I recall, long, 24 miles long, about seven miles wide at the least widest place on the island and about 12 miles wide on the widest part of the island. And I don’t know how many square miles that is. Do you happen to know?

ADM. WILLARD: I don’t have that figure with me, sir. I can certainly supply it to you if you’d like.

REP. JOHNSON: My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize.

ADM. WILLARD: We don’t anticipate that. The Guam population, I think, currently about 175,000 and again with 8,000 Marines and their families, it’s an addition of about 25,000 more into the population.

REP. JOHNSON: And also things like the environment, the sensitive areas of the environment, coral reefs and those kinds of things.

And I know that lots of people don’t like to think about that, but we didn’t think about global warming either and now we do have to think about it.

And so I’m concerned from an environmental standpoint whether or not Guam is the best place to do this relocation. But it’s actually the only place. Is that correct?

ADM. WILLARD: This is the best place. This is the farthest west U.S. territory that we own and this is part of our nation in readdressing the forward presence and posture importance to Pacific Command. Guam is vital to this decision.

It’s a pretty dumb metaphor, and I think Johnson’s decision to rant about coral reefs and global warming at House Armed Services Committee hearing was pretty dumb too. But I don’t think Johnson was expressing a concern that Guam might literally tip over.

Update: To Corner readers who disagree: Hey, you could be right! If we had some way of knowing for sure, I would only be 75 percent surprised to learn that Johnson wasn’t being facetious. But I think he was.


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