Famed biographer Doug Brinkley has written exhaustively on the history of Alaskan wilderness, but Alaskan Rep. Don Young was having none of it recently when it came to the issue of drilling for oil at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The two men clashed bitterly last Friday as Brinkley, a professor at Rice University and the author most recently of “The Quiet World: Saving Alaska’s Wilderness Kingdom 1979-1960,” [sic] testified at a House Natural Resources Committee meeting regarding the effects of drilling in the refuge. Young interrupted Brinkley’s testimony, calling him “Dr. Rice” and saying his testimony was “garbage.”
“Dr. Brinkley. Rice is a university,” Brinkley shot back. “I know you went to Yuba College and you couldn't graduate.”
Young, getting visibly upset, retorted: “I'll call you anything I want to call you when you sit in that chair. You just be quiet.”
"You don't own me," Brinkley said. "I pay your salary.”
"Brinkley got the last word when he expressed his surprise to 'hear a congressman today say there’s nothing in his district. It’s boring. It’s flat. It’s not exciting. I don’t know a representative who doesn’t love their district. Every state in America’s landscape is beautiful if you love it. But some people love money more than their homeland or where they live, and I’m afraid that that’s why this fight has to keep coming up 50 years later, we’re still trying to tell people the Arctic refuge is real. It belongs to the American people.'”
The Washington Post has more detailed comment on the exchange and longer video from C-Span with more context.
Don Shelby, who says he's a friend of Brinkley's, talked to him about the incident.
Dr. Brinkley gets a little heated himself, but I think just sitting there while the Congressman calls you garbage, isn't the answer. Bullies, especially those with power, get away with their tantrums because people don't stand up to them. The Committee Chair tells Brinkley to act civilly, but he doesn't tell his colleague Don Young that.
I just learned about this today (thanks J), but Gryphen at Immoral Minority posted about it on Monday and the Fairbanks News Miner had it Saturday. And Mudflats discussed it Sunday with comments on the ANWR debate itself that got Young so aroused.
The Anchorage Daily News finally got something posted online today:
Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley says he has no regrets about his dust-up with Alaska Rep. Don Young Friday during a Capitol Hill hearing on oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In a follow-up interview with KHOU in Houston, Texas, Brinkley accused Young of "bullying." Young, meanwhile, claimed Brinkley was just trying to boost sales of his recent book on the history of Alaska conservationism.That's all they had to say. So the newspaper in the biggest city in the state by far, put up just a little bit and focused on Brinkley's behavior rather than Young's.
Though they included a video news report from Houston, where he teaches at Rice University which includes comments from Dr. Brinkley:
It was only two weeks ago that Brent Scarpo was in Anchorage discussing bullying at many different venues. A key point he made is that bullying continues when bystanders allow bullies to bully.
People have criticized Joe Paterno and others who did not follow through when they knew about Coach Sandusky's abuse of the kids under his care. But how many of Don Young's colleagues interrupt his bullying of witnesses who have been invited to testify.
It's easy to criticize others' inaction, but it's much harder to act when the bully is someone with power in our own spheres of influence. The Alaska voters who reelect Don Young every two years are, to an extent, his enablers.
And let me just note, there is a difference between being passionate in your arguments and being abusive. Young is, and has frequently over the years, been abusive to people who disagree with him. This is not the kind of role model I want for the people and youth of Alaska. Don Young owes Dr. Brinkley an apology. And when he gives it, then Dr. Brinkley can accept it and apologize as well - not for standing up to him, but for getting personal (ie. bringing up Young's college record) rather than staying on topic.
Congressman Young, here's a link to the Good Samaritan Counseling Center in Anchorage. They have an anger management program that might be helpful.
And here's a link for an 8 hour Anger Management class in Washington DC. It's only $65. I'd be more than happy to pay what isn't covered by your Congressional health insurance.