Must-See Video of Rep. Don Young (R-AK) Bullying a Witness: “I Can Call You Anything I Want…. You Just Be quiet!”

By Don Shelby, in a re-post

On Nov. 18 the celebrated historian, Dr. Douglas Brinkley, testified before the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee. The committee was taking testimony on another congressional effort to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil exploration and drilling.

Brinkley was there to suggest that the ANWR be designated a national monument, preserved and protected. Brinkley knows about conservation. Among his award-winning publications and best-selling books is “Wilderness Warrior” about Theodore Roosevelt’s environmental policies. His most recent book, “The Quiet World,” traces the history of Alaska’s wilderness. He’s currently writing a new history on the conservation movement in America.

After Brinkley delivered his testimony, Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, walked into the hearing late. Please watch this short clip of what happened:

By way of full disclosure, Dr. Brinkley is a friend of mine, but had Dr. Brinkley been a stranger to me, I would still be mortified that a United States congressman would treat a guest of the House in such a fashion. I hope this piece of video is seen by as many Americans as possible. I shouldn’t like people in other countries to see it. We still have an image to uphold in the world. Young makes it look like the most powerful nation on earth is run by the inmates of the asylum.

You may also notice that Dr. Brinkley doesn’t suffer fools gladly. I talked to him about the confrontation. He told me: “I felt like I needed to hold my own against them. I feel good about it.”

He continued: “I’m a historian and I read a lot of testimony. It is important to me to have an accurate record. I thought I needed to set the record straight for Congressman Young. My name is not Dr. Rice, it is Dr. Brinkley.”

That is certainly part of it. It is likely, as well, that Brinkley had studied the history of Congressman Young before he arrived at the hearing. Brinkley told me he knew that Congressman Young, at another hearing, had waved a walrus penis bone at Mollie Beattie, the incoming chief of the Fish and Wildlife Service.


Brinkley may have read the Rolling Stone article about Young that quotes the congressman as saying, “Environmentalists are a self-centered bunch of waffle-stomping, Harvard-graduating, intellectual idiots.” The quote continues, “[They] are not Americans, never have been Americans and never will be Americans.”

I don’t think Congressman Young would have dared say such a thing to Teddy Roosevelt’s face.

Missed votes
Brinkley should not have been surprised that Congressman Young showed up late and missed the bulk of the historian’s testimony. Young is often cited as the congressman missing more votes than any other member of the House. Brinkley would have known that Young was the co-sponsor, with discredited Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, of the bill to pay for the infamous “bridge to nowhere.”

Brinkley told me: “Everyone knows that Young is just a menacing blowhard. He has a history of being rude, he browbeats and he’s snotty toward anyone who cares about the environment.”

I asked Brinkley if he was surprised that Committee Chair Doc Hastings took Young’s side and continued lecturing the historian. “No,” said Brinkley. “They are tied together at the hip. They are both oil company factotums. They are a tag team.”

Had Young been in the room for Brinkley’s testimony, he would have heard an interesting history lesson. Brinkley told those present that President Dwight D. Eisenhower had set aside the ANWR, and protected it the same way Ike had protected Antarctica. Brinkley is proposing that President Obama set aside the ANWR as a national monument using the 1906 Antiquities Act.

“Eisenhower created it as a refuge,” Brinkley said.

So Brinkley suggests a new name and new status for ANWR. “I think it should be called the Dwight Eisenhower National Monument,” he said.

But what about the oil?

According to the United States Geological Survey, there is a good deal of oil beneath the coastal plains of the ANWR. But there is, in relative terms, very little when compared to world demand. Pump it dry and it would be emptied in less than a year.

Another Republican congressman, Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland, always votes against drilling the ANWR. It makes him unpopular in the caucus room. But the old biology teacher-turned congressman doesn’t object to drilling on environmental grounds. Bartlett told me that he votes against draining it now. He thinks it is smarter to save it for future generations who might need it, and use it more efficiently.

Bartlett doesn’t think it is wise to pump the ANWR dry just to consume it in highly inefficient cars and trucks. Bartlett drives a Prius, which is another thing that drives the caucus a little crazy.

Same argument
Young chided Brinkley by saying that no one ever goes to the ANWR. Brinkley told me, “They used the same argument when considering whether to set aside the Grand Canyon. ‘Nobody ever goes there,’ they said.”

The Grand Canyon is back up for debate, by the same forces who wish to open the ANWR for oil drilling. Congress is considering bills to open up areas near the Grand Canyon for uranium mining. It was being rushed through until someone noticed that the company doing the mining was from Russia, and no one had checked whether there were any safeguards preventing Grand Canyon uranium from going into Iranian nukes.

“Our park lands, our treasured areas are under attack,” Brinkley told me. “We fought hard to protect these wild places and that makes the United States unique. China is destroying its landscape. We have a history of preserving ours.”

Brinkley believes Young and his ilk have another reasons for going into the ANWR, and it has nothing to do with oil. “I think they believe,” he said, “if they can open up the ANWR, molest it piece by piece, they will demoralize the whole environmental movement.”

Brinkley believes, as Young has made clear, there are members of Congress who see people who would protect wild places as the enemy of the country. “The Coastal Plain of the ANWR has an unbelievably rich marine environment,” Brinkley said. “It is where the caribou calve. It is where the polar bear den.”

To Congressman Don Young’s ears, such talk borders on treason.

Brinkley has a ready response. “Congressman Don Young is a low-grade Joseph McCarthy.”

Don Shelby.  Before retiring in 2010, he worked for 32 years as anchor, investigative reporter and environmental correspondent for WCCO-TV.  He reported from the scene of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. He has twice won the Pulitzer Prize of broadcasting: The George Foster Peabody. He is a member of the Climate Science Rapid Response Team roundtable.

36 Responses to Must-See Video of Rep. Don Young (R-AK) Bullying a Witness: “I Can Call You Anything I Want…. You Just Be quiet!”

  1. Bill Goedecke says:

    I believe Republican Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland was the first congressperson who introduced the current conditions around oil use and production (peak oil) to Congress. I followed his work when I was reading Matt Simmons material. I called his office and gave my thanks for his work.

  2. George Ennis says:

    Watching Congressman Young makes me quite pessimistic about the possibility for any action being taken to deal with climate change at least for another decade if even then.

  3. Mike Roddy says:

    Young highlights annual lists of Most Corrupt Members of Congress and Dumbest Congressmen. He’s not just an embarrassment to Alaska and Congress. He’s an embarrassment to the human race.

  4. cervantes says:

    This is just typical conservative style — arrogant, bullying, not only willfully but pridefully ignorant, dehumanizing opponents, generally acting like a spoiled two year old. From O’Reilly to Beck to Inhofe to Brownback, they all think it’s the way to be.

  5. Lionel A says:

    Thank you for bringing this to the attention of a wider audience. There are no words in the language I know of to adequately describe this creature (and I am ex-Navy so that says something).

    Interesting reading at Sourcewatch. There could be no better example of the adage ‘Power corrupts’ than this creature’s behaviour.

    I should be astonished that the people of Alaska suffer this creature’s antics. But then such a creature having been under investigation for bribery could explain the creature’s legislative survival. What’s the latest on this – Sourcewatch is a few years behind?

    Yep! It seems to me that the lunatics are in charge, and not only in the US.

  6. Bo says:

    Why wouldn’t you like people from other nations to watch this? It so clearly shows that there will be NO political leadership from the USA until the people in the country become embarrassed enough to vote for thinking politicians…

  7. Dave Yuhas says:

    “there will be NO political leadership from the USA until the people in the country become embarrassed enough to vote for thinking politicians…”

    Don’t hold your breath.

  8. M Tucker says:

    Young’s despicable outburst was broadcast on MSNBC on Wednesday so it is out in more places than just here.

    I would like to point out for our foreign readers that the US as a whole does not vote for Senators or Congress-persons. They are voted for by the individual states or small gerrymandered districts within a particular state. In general they do not represent the larger opinions of the American people. But, since Alaska is the least populous state, they have only one congressional district and Young is their sole House member. Young has held office since 1973, almost 4 decades, is 78 years old and may be showing signs of age related mental decrepitude. He is obviously well liked and respected in Alaska but he definitely does not represent the opinions of the America people.

  9. Jim Groom says:

    Rep Young appeared to be off his meds or something during that session. Rude is one thing, but out-and-out stupidity is another. What it is with Young and the likes of Palin regarding their environment? They live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet and all they see are resources to be exploited. It is as if they don’t realize that the future does not belong to them, it belongs to those who come after their gone. Don’t generations yet born deserve a little pristine wilderness without gas and oil pipe lines?

  10. Bruce Cox says:

    Being “mortified” would be an understated response on my part to the behavior of Congressman Young… and the Chair of that committee. I can imagine being there, and yanking Young down from his seat and making him apologize. Maybe running him out of town! Heavens!! Thanks, Dr. Brinkley, for NOT being quiet.

  11. marty says:

    This land should not be drilled. If it were up to congress there would be oil wells everywhere. This country should be looking for alternative forms of energy, renewable forms of energy, and get off of the oil wagon that has done nothing for this great country but pollute and destroy nature and wildlife. Maybe if Congressmen weren’t sitting in the pockets of the giant oil company’s they would have a different attitude. You don’t have to look into Alaska very far to see what the Exxon Valdez did to the Alaskan wilderness. That apparently is no good enough for Congress. My only regret is that Dr. Brinkly didn’t go a step further and really get into it. Congressmen are the ones who need to shut up and listen.

  12. Geoff Henderson says:

    “I shouldn’t like people in other countries to see it.”
    People from Australia have seen it. We shake our heads and then shudder when it looks like we have our own herd of fools like Young.

    At least Young stands out by his rhetoric, and history will always name him as some kind of latter-year primordial tosser.

  13. Michael Glass says:

    I think this comment by Brinkley is spot-on.

    “I think they believe,” he said, “if they can open up the ANWR, molest it piece by piece, they will demoralize the whole environmental movement.”

    I have long contended this issue has been a symbol for the right wing, it has nothing to do with oil any more.

    The right wing lost on this issue 30-odd years ago, and they have been steamed about that loss ever since. They want to win, and win the exact same battle, to prove they are top dog. They want to urinate on the territory—despoil it physically—as a physical manifestation of winning and owning, and to demoralize their opponents.

  14. Mark Shapiro says:

    Unfortunately accurate.

    Important (in all ways) to keep the high ground.

  15. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Young looks like a pretty typical Rightwinger to me. Thwarted, even a little, they resort to bullying belligerence. As it ever has been, and ever will be.

  16. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    You, Mike are embarrassed. I am embarrassed, but not surprised. Young, unfortunately, will become a hero to the Right for this, because he displays all those ‘virtues’ they hold most dear-belligerence, bullying, bellicosity, rudeness, contempt for others etc.

  17. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It works. The end, dominance over others, justifies the means, means that they just love employing. The bully is the Rightist type par excellence, or should I say par excrescence.

  18. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Lunatics, certainly, but morally insane. And this type thrives wherever capitalism and the magic of money-power weaves its wicked way. Power corrupts and money-power corrupts the soul.

  19. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Hold your breath long enough, and you’ll vote for the Right. This country abounds with hypoxic, pulseless, ‘conservatives’, just like yours.

  20. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    If ‘Young’ is indeed 78 years old, then his interest in the future is bound to be hypotrophied. Rightwingers do not, in general, in my experience, really care much what happens after they are dead, when, to all intents and purposes that they are concerned with, the universe ends.

  21. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    A ‘primordial tosser’ sounds like some sort of Creation myth. What we need for an epoch of deliberate human auto-genocide are some myths concerning Destruction. Good God-I forgot the ‘Rapture’, ‘the End Times’, ‘Apocalypse’, ‘Armageddon’ etc. Those clever little monotheists have been preparing for this eventuality for thousands of years. Indeed many of them seem to be positively slavering for it, and doing everything in their power to bring it about, out of a sense of religious obligation. Need I ask-is Mr Young a ‘God-fearing believer’?

  22. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Molest is apt. These are molesters-life molesters.

  23. Turboblocke says:

    If a politician in the UK behaved like Young did he would be out on his ear.

    Last night I saw an episode of “How I met your Mother”. I thought it was satire, but now I’m not so sure:
    Barney Stinson: Robin, not only were you wrong, but you stubbornly stuck to your guns and insulted me in the process.
    Barney Stinson: Congratulations, you are an American.

  24. sj says:

    Young refers to the Arctic Plain as “really nothing”. This reminds me of a local Mayor in my vicinity who referred to a wetlands area under threat from building construction as “nothing but a string of dirty puddles”. These people seem incapable of understanding the real value of the natural world.

    Yet despite all the vested interests involved, The Mayor´s included. The wetlands area was saved due to public outcry and is now a protected area.

  25. Roger Blanchard says:

    It would have been interesting if Mr. Brinkley had asked Rep. Young about the massive amounts of oil from the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A)that should be causing Alaskan oil production to surge now.

    If you’re not aware of it, Pres. Clinton opened a large area in NPR-A for oil development in the late 1990s and Pres. Bush opened much of the rest during his presidency.

    Prior to 2002, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimated that NPR-A had an average technically recoverable reserves of 9.3 billion barrels (Gb). In 2002, they upped it to 10.5 Gb. In 2010, they had to downgrade their estimate to 0.896 Gb due to terrible exploration results. I don’t take any oil reserves estimates by the USGS seriously.

    Rep. Young has to be angry because Alaskan oil production continues to decline, this year by ~40,000 b/d. Alaskan production is now approximately 1/4th of what it was in 1988 (~.5 mb/d vs 2.02 mb/d).

    For those interested in Bakken Shale oil production, production increased by an average of 36.0%/year during 2008-2010 but the rate of increase is now decreasing as illustrated in the table below:

    North Dakota Oil Production Data for
    Three Month Periods

    2010 vs 2009 Oil Production Increase (b/d)
    Jan/Feb/Mar 66,400
    Apr/May/Jun 93,714
    Jul/Aug/Sep 98,902
    Oct/Nov/Dec 105,359

    2011 vs 2010 Oil Production Increase (b/d)
    Jan/Feb/Mar 95,289
    Apr/May/Jun 65,637

    I expect the trend of the first half of 2011 to continue in the second half of 2011.

    Based upon my modeling of Bakken Shale oil production, it should peak in 2013-2014 at ~400,000 b/d and then decline at an average rate of 15%/year.

    Many in the drill-baby-drill crowd have been crowing about Bakken Shale oil production but they won’t be for long.

    Roger Blanchard
    Sault Ste. Marie, MI

  26. M Tucker says:

    Seward’s Folly. Many asked what do we, the American people, get out of it? What is the pay off? We increase the native population we are responsible for, we need to send government officials to administer the land that is not contiguous with the rest of the nation, and we had little need of new territory for the requirements of our population at the time. Then we discovered Alaska’s wealth of natural resources. Problem solved. Yep, it was the Republicans who called it Seward’s Folly in 1868 and they were very pleased when gold was discovered. And at that time it was a common belief that the wilderness was redeemed by developing its natural resources. It took a lot of effort by Muir and TR and many others to begin to have a different discussion about the true wealth our wilderness places give back to mankind. Young is a through-back to those ancient days and he is unfortunately not alone.

  27. Mike Roddy says:

    95% of our redwood forests in California are destroyed, but about 20 years ago we tried to set aside a few areas. Loggers went berserk, committing vandalism by cutting down big redwoods randomly, and forming log truck convoys to honk through the little towns in Northern California. They were egged on by small town businessmen, logging companies, and politicians like Young.

    We are indeed dealing with the beast here. There is only way to defeat him: Fight.

  28. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    As Ronny Raygun said at the time ‘You seen one redwood, you seen ’em all’.

  29. mulp says:

    Congress doesn’t matter – all environmentalists need to do is elect a green president and the laws in the US will be wonderful….

    …is obviously the message the oil and coal industry has used to convince the environmentalists to waste their efforts.

  30. Lionel A says:

    And for the wider perspective on why the world is so ‘f****d up’ from the perspective of the 99% whether they be in the US, Alasks, the Amazon forests, Greece, Kazakhstan and how the bankers, with the help of Tim Geithner (another deceptively mild looking man like Tim Phillips of AfP) and others then Greg Palast’s latest ‘Vultures Picnic’ is a must read.

    Yes Chapter 1 (PDF) is available at Greg’s place but the whole meal is worth the effort. Have a bucket handy for when you feel you have to throw-up. The bucket should be a large one for each course is rather unpleasant.

  31. lasmog says:

    An angry repugnant little man. Unfortunately, Young is a poster boy for the Republican Party 2011.

  32. John McCormick says:

    Repugnant rethug. Demented comes to mind as well.

  33. Daniel J. Andrews says:

    I would think even Republicans would be embarrassed by Young even if they agreed with his stance on the environment. His “I can call you anything I want” is just repugnant. Is he saying he has the right to call someone names? Or call them names that aren’t theirs? Or refusal to use titles like Doctor?

    It smacks of the big government doing whatever it wants to citizens, something that I thought Repubs would stand against. Somehow I don’t see an angry gun carrying mob descending on his office to protest against his misuse of power though.

  34. Scott says:

    I think Mr Rice needs to relax!

  35. cynthia says:

    Very disheartening! This is the kind of garbage we have to get rid of (old,ignorant, republicans wedded to big Oil) if we ever stand a chance of averting catastrophic climate change. Our whole planet is dependent on us (the leucocytes/white blood cells)in destroying this menace! Viva the Revolution!!