On Hank Johnson, Guam, and Metaphors

Aerial view of Apra Harbor on the island of GuamLeft: Aerial view of Apra Harbor on the island of Guam

I read a few blog skewerings of the rhetoric used by Hank Johnson (D-GA) regarding Guam. If you missed the C-SPAN clip that has gone viral on the Internet, Johnson suggested that the island of Guam might "tip over and capsize" if plans by the U.S. military proceed to relocate some 10,000 Marines and their dependents to the island from Okinawa.

Let's employ Occam's razor here. Which is easier to believe: that Rep. Johnson used a metaphor (or clunky wording, or dry humor, or convoluted rhetoric) or that a person with two academic degrees and 25 years as a practicing attorney actually believes that an island can capsize?

As I mentioned on another site, I'll grant that Johnson sounds less-than-stellar as a rhetorician here, and I might even accept that he comes across like a mush-mouthed tool. However, it is difficult for me to believe that this former lawyer and jurist really thinks islands can capsize. We might also consider Johnson's discussion partner, a naval admiral, when deciding if there is a plausible context to the use of the nautical term "capsize."

Moreover, while on the subject, Johnson raised an interesting point about sustainability on Guam: with a population density of 839 people per square mile, the population density of Guam is almost as high as Japan. Quite a few invasive species have disrupted the ecosphere of Guam, and the influx of the U.S. Marine Corps' 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force will result in a 10 percent or more rise in the island's population, no doubt adding to the environmental challenges of the island. In addition, during the peak of construction for the new base the island's population is expected to swell by 79,000 people, a whopping 45 percent increase in human beings on the 209 square mile island.

Perhaps we should be more concerned that the military spokesperson could not provide even rough estimates about the size of the island - you would think if he were testifying before Congress he would be prepped beforehand about geographic and demographic data. The figures that the supposedly brain-dead Hank Johnson pulled off the top of his head were fairly accurate, while Admiral Robert Willard, head of the U.S. Pacific fleet, was unable to provide any data.