Rep. Don Young (R-AK) during his verbal, mutual smackdown with Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley. A stunned aide watches from behind the congressman.
Rep. Don Young (R-AK) during his verbal, mutual smackdown with Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley. A stunned aide watches from behind the congressman. C-SPAN.org
One of the nation's best-known academic historians got into a superheated exchange Friday with one of the U.S. House's longest serving members over the issue of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Douglas Brinkley, a prolific author and professor at Rice University of Texas, was on a panel of witnesses at a hearing on jobs and drilling in ANWR. Being that Brinkley's latest book is a history of efforts to protect the Alaskan wilderness, he was invited to testify by the committee's Democrats.
Slightly more than a half hour into the hearing, Rep. Don Young, the vinegary congressman who has represented Alaska since 1973, set Brinkley off first by calling his testimony "garbage," then by mistakenly calling him "Mr. Rice."
BRINKLEY: "It's Dr. Brinkley, Rice is a university. I know you went to Yuba College and couldn't graduate..."
YOUNG: Well, I called you Dr. Rice. I'll call you anything I want when you sit in that chair. You just be quiet. You be quiet.
BRINKLEY: You don't own me. I pay your salary.
(At about this point, the young aide sitting behind the congressman who had been checking her BlackBerry earlier is now sitting in rapt attention with her facial expression going from curious to a shocked, oh-no-he-didn't-just-say-that. Her changing reaction from about the 31:30 mark is probably the best moment of the whole clash.)
YOUNG: I'll tell you right now...
CHAIRMAN HASTINGS: The gentleman will suspend. I will remind members...
BRINKLEY: I work for the private sector. You work for the taxpayer.
CHAIRMAN HASTINGS: Mr. Brinkley, you were invited here to testimony (sic). We look forward to your testimony. You got to the time to say...
BRINKLEY: He called me Mr. Rice. I needed to correct the record.
CHAIRMAN HASTINGS: Mr. Brinkley. We see a lot of people here and from time to time we make faux pas. Nobody is perfect here. But to interrupt, breaks the comity of what we're trying to do. We're going to have disagreements here. You've already seen that.
BRINKLEY: He called me Mr. Rice. He used 'garbage' and Mr. Rice. You would do that if somebody did that to your name.
CHAIRMAN HASTING: Mr. Brinkley, I've been called a lot of things.
BRINKLEY: I wouldn't call you that. You're a good congressman.
CHAIRMAN HASTINGS: Mr. Brinkley, do you want to continue to sit on this panel?
CHAIRMAN HASTINGS: Okay, then. Please follow the rules.
Things could only go up from there even though Young still could barely contain his contempt for Brinkley who he threw in the category of "ivory tower" types and "elites" who dare to tell Alaskans that certain parts of their state should be off limits to oil drilling.