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Rep. Young and his show biz

Posted: December 2, 2011 - 12:03am

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.

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