Allen asked Webb was asked about Craney Island, an island here in Virginia critical to our economy, host to a military operation, and future site of a port which Allen fought for. Webb had no idea what the island was, which Allen used to good advantage highlighting both Webb's lack of knowledge of an important economic development, AND allowing Allen to note his own acheivement. As the Washington Post tells it:
Last week, the U.S. Senate authorized a 580-acre expansion of the island, which will cost $671.3 million. As much as $26.2 million in federal funds has to be appropriated for the project. The authorization is the initial step in getting the first phase of the terminal opened by 2017.
"It's going to make us an international port of some significance," said Portsmouth Mayor James W. Holley III, an independent who credits Allen with moving the project along.
It was an excellent use of a "candidate question".
Tonight, Webb had his chance to return the favor, and he too picked an island, but not one that was all that important to Virginians, as it turns out it was an island in the south pacific: Senkaku Island.
Turns out this little island has been the center of a very long-running discussion between China and Japan. Doesn't seem like it's going anywhere, or it's a big deal, except to Webb. From the internet, we find this entry:
Which country should the islands called Diaoyu by the Chinese and Senkaku by the Japanese belong to, China or Japan? Currently, these islands are under Japanese control, but China also claims sovereignty over them. When signing the 1978 Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship, then Vice-Premier Deng Xiaoping said: "Our generation is not wise enough to find common language on this [Diaoyu/Senkaku] question. The next generation will certainly be wiser. They will surely find a solution acceptable to all."
We, the people of the 21st century, are the "next generation." Although it is doubtful that we are any wiser than our predecessors, we can at least try to improve our understanding of these issues.
A first step in that direction is a well researched book on the Diaoyu/Senkaku question, Suganuma Unryu's Sovereign Rights and Territorial Space in Sino-Japanese Relations: Irredentism and the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2000).
This is actually an interesting little tale, if not particularly important to Virginians. It remains to be seen what Webb was trying to accomplish with this question, other than to remind people about Craney Island. I'm sure there's lots of islands in the world that nobody knows anything about -- but only a few of them are actually IN Virginia.
Maybe Webb has some great accomplishment related to this Chinese/Japanese island that he didn't have time to mention. Or maybe one of his racist fictional characters has business dealings there. Who knows? Maybe Jarding can explain it.
I certainly hope Webb didn't waste a valuable question in a debate simple to say "hey, I know of an island somewhere in the world that YOU don't know about, too!!!