Johnson: I'm A Human Being! (Talking Points Memo)

By Paul Kiel

For most of the hearing this morning, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson has been doing his bureaucratic best to descend into minute discussions of the law ("Section 209" of the Clean Air Act is a favorite hobby horse), extended discussions of process, and the like. But Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) didn't have time for that.

The article contains video inserted here.

Every time Sanders asked a question and Johnson made his monotone parry, Sanders struck back to the heart of the issue.

Is global warming a major crisis facing the planet? he wanted to know.

"I don't know what you mean by major crisis," Johnson responded.

"The usual definition of the term "major crisis" would be fine." The reason Sanders wanted to know, he said, is that Johnson's decision to deny the waiver would make sense if the Bush administration didn't think global warming was something worth getting worked up about.

Johnson chose "serious issue" as his preferred term, and then returned to discuss Section 209 again.

Sanders wanted to know if Johnson thought that global warming was due to human activity. It took Johnson a paragraph and another exchange to say yes.

Then do you believe that "bold action" is needed to reverse it? Sanders wanted to know.

Johnson agreed to the need for action but pointedly dropped the "bold" part. And he at length took exception to Sanders' contention that the Bush administration has ignored and downplayed the threat of global warming throughout its terms (Sanders didn't mention the organized effort to censor government publications and scientists). Bush said that global climate change was a "problem" way back in 2001, Johnson said. Case closed, apparently.

But what about the serious health problems that are predicted to stem from global warming -- flooding, diseases, drought, etc.? Do you agree that those are real threats?

Johnson returned to a discussion of "specific definitions" and the law....

But Sanders broke in. "Just as a human being." What do you think?

Well, "I consider myself a human being," Johnson answered and attested again to the "serious issues" here.