Rep. Don Young Loses it in House Resources Committee Meeting (Video)
Apparently someone put something in Don Young’s oatmeal this week. OK, yes… he’s got something in his oatmeal every week, but this week he got an extra helping. Or perhaps he jus needs a bran muffin instead. Or perhaps the propeller beanie he wore to the Resources hearing a few days ago was a liiiitle too tight.
Whatever the reason, our “Congressman for All Alaska” was busily at his favorite hobby of seeing how many Alaskans he can get to put bags over their heads.
This time, his display came when speaking with Dr. Douglas Brinkley, an “ivory tower elite,” known to the rest of the world as an “educated person.”
Here’s the background.
Republicans in the House have a plan. They’d like to increase oil production and use some of the money to build and repair infrastructure projects. One of the places they’d like to increase production is on Alaska’s northern coastal plain, in an area known as ANWR – the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Democrats also have a plan. They’d like to roll back subsidies that the oil companies are now getting, and use that money to fund infrastructure projects. They argue that whatever the country would get from new development like ANWR would fall far short of what is necessary to make a real difference, and that the oil companies who are making money hand over fist can afford to chip in a lot more.
Let it be said that the vast majority of Alaskans are all for drilling ANWR – Republicans, Democrats, Independents, it doesn’t matter. So, Alaska’s congressional delegation in its various incarnations over the years has been fighting tooth and nail to get this done. Whoever manages to be the catalyst for drilling in ANWR can count themselves Senator or Congressman for life.
Many in the Lower 48 are opposed to this plan. ANWR has become the symbol of wilderness, the last spot on which the environmental movement will make their stand, stick their flag in the ground, and die on the principle that there are some wild places, remote and desolate or not, that we should just leave alone. So, how Alaska’s congressional delegation chooses to handle this touchy situation is critical. Is there any way to develop Alaska’s resources in this area, and somehow make it okay with environmentalists? Negotiations such as this are tricky, as you can imagine. Diplomacy, kid gloves, compromise, concession, and thinking outside the box will all be necessary to make everyone happy.
I’ve often wondered if there wasn’t some way to do it. For instance, oil drilling on the rest of Alaska’s north slope has certain benefits for Alaskans. Offshore drilling doesn’t. In that case we take all of the risk and get none of the reward except for some jobs that may or may not go to Alaskans. But onshore, a portion of the money made by the oil companies goes into Alaska’s Permanent Fund. This money is invested by clever, capable people, and the dividend is shared with all Alaskans. Every man, woman and child gets a check every year with which they may invest in their children’s future education, donate to charity, buy a plasma TV, take a trip, or stash it away for a rainy day.
Is there some way to take a healthy chunk of profits from drilling in ANWR (on shore) and put it towards a green energy permanent fund, where we can develop and implement some of the massive changes we’ll need to get ourselves off the petroleum-based dead end energy resource track we’re on? Is there a safe (surely safer than offshore drilling amid floating pack ice as Shell will soon be doing in the Arctic) way to tap that reserve fast, and get the hell out? Perhaps this kind of targeted green energy investment would speak to the environmental movement and Democrats in the House more than road projects would? What if we developed electric cars, or built wind farms, or explored the possibilities for tidal energy, geothermal, or solar…?
Fossil fuels are a finite resource whether we, or the oil companies, would like to believe it. So, how can we develop what we have now in a safe, directed and intentional way to save our hind quarters when all that is gone? There are many smart people, with many good ideas. Can’t we ratchet back subsidies like the Democrats want, AND develop certain places like the Republicans want? We’re innovative people. All it takes is someone from Alaska to explain, and propose forward-thinking solutions in a way that speaks to all people…
It takes someone like… not Don Young. He loves yelling at people who disagree with him, especially environmentalists whom he has referred to collectively as:
“… a self-centered bunch of waffle-stomping, Harvard-graduating, intellectual idiots” who “are not Americans, never have been Americans, never will be Americans.”
But this time, one of those waffle-stompers (a reference to the imprints left by hiking boots) actually yelled back, and the Congressman didn’t like it much. The man in question is Dr. Douglas Brinkley, a professor and historian from Rice University. He opposes drilling in the Refuge, and has written a book on the subject.
The congressman starts off optimistically:
Young: If you ever want to see an exercise in futility, it’s this hearing. That side’s already made up its mind. This side has already made up its mind. And the, I call it garbage Dr. Rice… It comes from a mouth…
Brinkley: It’s Dr. Brinkley. Rice is a university. I know you went to Yuba college and couldn’t graduate.
Young: I’ll call you anything when you sit in that chair! You understand? You just be quiet!
Young: You be quiet!
Brinkley: Why? You don’t own me.! I pay your salary. I work for the private sector, you work for the taxpayer.
Here we must pause to enjoy the exact moment that Don Young and the staffer behind him react to the “You don’t own me” line.
At this point, Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), the chairman of the committee reprimanded Brinkley and tried to gavel things back to order, telling him if he wanted to continue to be present he would follow the rules.
Young resumed, virtually spitting his words: “What I am suggesting, Mr. Brinkley. . .” And then went on for a few minutes, calling the prof an ivory-tower elite who doesn’t really know Alaska and describing the Arctic plain as a desolate, “nothing” kind of place that most Alaskans, he said, want to see drilled. The congressman also chided Brinkley for an earlier comment about Young’s absence from the room during his testimony — he was at a vote — and they kind of got into it again: “Don’t mention my name!” Young hissed.
So Brinkley didn’t. But he got his swipes in indirectly later in the hearing, contradicting statements from “the congressman who’s yet again left — doesn’t stay, blows smoke and then leaves.” That got a stronger reprimand from Hastings, who told the historian he was “disrespectful.”
A spokesman for Young later called the episode “a publicity stunt by Mr. Brinkley in order to sell books.” Witnesses, he said, “are invited to testify before Congress to answer questions and provide insight, not repeatedly interrupt.”
Brinkley was unapologetic when we reached him, calling Young “a crazy zealot for molesting the refuge” and saying he wished he “could have gone mano-a-mano” with him. “I was hoping for the chance to get into a heated debate with him, but, alas, it’s hard in that forum.”
Young: Now I have been all over that area.
Brinkley: I know you have.
Young: The Arctic plain is really nothing. You say it’s the heart, it’s not the heart.
Brinkley: I disagree with that.
Young: It’s part of the most deficit [sic] part of the area. And what hurts me the most, you sit there in the Rice University, when the people support drilling for their good and the good of the nation, as a college professor and ivory tower. You can go up there and camp and spend your time, and I hope you spent a lot of money. But the reality is this area should be drilled. I’ve been fighting this battle for 39 years.
Here is the video from CNN, clipped to the four minutes that were by far the most popcorn-worthy, and in which Don Young describes himself as “really pissed.”
Yes, we noticed.