This editorial first appeared in the Anchorage Daily News:
Maybe we’re jaded. We’ve seen our Rep. Don Young in action so many times that when he plays Alaska’s homespun champion and a bully to boot, it just doesn’t “go viral” for us. It’s like Boston Red Sox fans used to say about Manny Ramirez — it’s just Manny being Manny.
Young’s set-to with Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley was more sizzle than substance. Young was rude. Brinkley was right to stand up to him. Brinkley’s own contemptuous reference to Young’s education was a cheap shot.
As for Young, railing at environmentalists has been a staple of his career. He clearly has fun doing it and just as clearly doesn’t care what critics think. And despite antics like the propeller-head beanie slap at Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and the administration’s oil and gas policies, it’s a mistake to underestimate Young. He hasn’t stayed in office since the early ‘70s on dumb luck.
But here’s the thing. A verbal slap fight with an academic may satisfy some Alaskans but does nothing for Alaskans. Beanies and bullying won’t expand oil and gas exploration; beanies and bullying subvert Young’s arguments and harden opposition. At the least, they’re a waste of energy.
Besides, Young should realize that if Brinkley sold a few more books off his video clash with Young, then the historian had the last word.
Young will be Young but he’s old enough to know when to know better.