With Thanksgiving, holiday shopping and traveling approaching, it took a while for the blogosphere to catch up with the war of words at a Capitol Hill committee hearing on drilling in the Alaskan wildlife refuge.
What you’re about to hear (or see) is an exchange between Alaska GOP congressman Don Young and the witness, historian and author Doug Brinkley of Rice University. It goes haywire in a hurry. The two men don’t agree.
After Brinkley offered his opinions on the effects of drilling, Young called the hearing an “an exercise in futility,” and likened the testimony to “garbage.” Then, he called Brinkley “Dr Rice,” confusing him with the university where he teaches. And that’s when the fireworks began.
“Rice is a university,” snapped Brinkley. “I know you went to Yuba College and you couldn’t graduate.”
Young 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!” said Brinkley. “I pay your salary.”
(As you watch the video –longer version here– note the expression on the face of the aide sitting behind Young. Also, Young eventually did get through Yuba Community College in California after a stint in the Army and went on to graduate from Chico State College.)
Committee chairman Doc Hastings tried to break it up, as Brinkley continued, “I work for the private sector. You work for the taxpayers.” (Rice is a private research university.)
Hastings then threatened to toss Brinkley from the meeting if he didn’t follow the rules (even though we’re not entirely sure Brinkley broke any rules). He described Young’s use of “Dr. Rice” as a “faux pas” –pronouncing it “foo pas.” Some order was restored, but Young wasn’t done venting.
“We’re the ones who ask the questions, and you’re the one who answers the questions,” calling people who visit Alaska’s national wildlife refuge to go camping “an elitist group,” and attacking Brinkley for working at a university –“an ivory tower,” he called it.
Yeah, and Congress, they’re SO in touch with “the people.” No entitlement attitude in that place.
–Brinkley was way out of line. Everyone knows Congress doesn’t work for the taxpayer; they work for the lobbyists.
–It’s too bad Brinkley backed down so quickly. Should’ve told Young to go pound sand. “I can call you anything I want?” Um, no you can’t, dick! The idea that some jackass member of Congress can berate a private citizen to score political point is outrageous.
–And since when is Congress working? The bonehead from Alaska has the worst attendance record in Congress. What makes him think he’s so special that he can go gallivanting about and miss work all the time? Clout: He’s been a part of Alaska politics since 1967 and a Congressman since 1973. He’s an institution. He doesn’t need you, or your rules. By the way, the NY Times called to ask why he had the worst attendance record, an aide informed the paper that the Congressman wasn’t there.
–For those who don’t know, “foo pas” is the right-wing Republican “English should be the national language” pronunciation).
FYI: The Washington Post caught up with both parties after the showdown:
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.”
Does it bother anyone even a little bit that a private citizen invited to give a learned opinion is told unequivocally by a publicly elected official that his opinion is garbage and that the committee members have all made up their minds already? If they’ve made up their minds, why even bother to invite other opinions. Why even bother to have a hearing?
Does it bother anyone at all that Young behaved as if the private citizens in this country are not even part of the equation? Does it bother anyone at all the Brinkley was reprimanded publicly, while Young wasn’t told a thing about his behavior? Does it bother anyone at all? Brinkley works for a private research institution and is paid solely by private sector money. Young is paid by, well, taxpayers like Brinkley. Imagine a private sector employee speaking to his employer like that. Young did and he’ll still have a job the next day.
Respect goes both ways, and it sure looks like Young has gotten a little too comfortable in his seat, not to mention arrogant. There is absolutely no defense for his behavior. And Congressman Hustings who asked Brinkley if he wanted to remain in the hearing, well, nothing like a tiny little veiled threat to restore order during chaos, is there?
I say big props to the professor. More Americans needs to let the government know who works for whom. Career politicians need to be curtailed and ousted as soon as they start acting like spoiled and pampered adults.