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Democracy in Action: ‘I Pay Your Salary!’

Posted on the 25 November 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
Democracy in action: ‘I pay your salary!’

Rep. Don Young

Democracy in action is sometimes pretty amusing to watch and for once, we’re not talking about Triumph the Insult Comic Dog at the Occupy Wall Street drum circle.

On November 18, historian and Rice University professor Douglas Brinkley headed to Washington to testify before the House National Resources Committee against proposed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

When Brinkley, who has written a book on the Alaskan wilderness, told the Committee that the arctic regions of Alaska are “a very significant landscape to the psyche of the American people” and ought to be protected, he was interrupted by Alaskan Rep. Don Young, a Republican, calling his testimony “garbage”. Young also made the mistake of referring to Brinkley as “Dr. Rice”; Brinkley fired back, “It’s Dr. Brinkley. Rice is a university. I know you went to Yuba College and couldn’t graduate.”

Oh, snaps.

It gets better:

Young: I’ll call you anything I want to call you while you sit in that chair. You just be quiet. You be quiet.

Brinkley: You don’t own me. I pay your salary.

The chairman of the committee steps in, chastising them both, and Young ultimately storms off, “pissed”.

This, American observers seem to agree, doesn’t reflect well on America. Don Shelby, an environmental columnist and reporter writing at, wrote, “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.”

Still, Gawker, who called Young a “raving lunatic”, noted that he did indeed graduate from Yuba Junior College, so Brinkley wasn’t entirely accurate; moreover, some commenters responding to mildly viral video of the schoolyard spat noted that it was poor form for Brinkley to make fun of Young for having gone to community college.

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