Michael Carey: Only the voters can end Don Young's act in D.C.

Michael Carey
Photo courtesy of Anne Cole

We have seen it all before.

The congressman's outrageous misbehavior on the public stage. The newspaper stories and video clips that capture him breaking bad. His perfunctory apology before he runs silent avoiding the press. The public's confusion about what to do with the offender -- Don Young.

Yes, the self-described Congressman for all Alaska once again has become an embarrassment. The CSPAN cameras caught him making imbecilic gestures and sticking out his tongue while nearby a colleague made the case for naming a New Jersey post office for a Marine killed in Iraq. This came only days after the House Ethics Committee ruled that Don improperly accepted nearly $60,000 in gifts.

Alaskans learned long ago Don was not bluffing when he described himself as not one of those "namby-pamby politicians." Unimpaired by either namby or pamby, Don made loud, braying abuse of the English language his calling card. He confused dog-mushing legend George Attla with Attila the Hun ("Attla the Hun"). Spliced together the Russian behavioral scientist Pavlov's drooling dog and islands off the Western Alaska coast ("Pribilof's dog"). Described an opponent's argument as "bladderdash." Called environmentalists a "self-centered bunch, the waffle-stomping, Harvard graduating, intellectual idiots."

His constituents were stunned when he used the crudest possible description of homosexuality to denounce photographer Robert Mapplethorpe at a Fairbanks high school, an incident Dermot Cole noted in breaking the story about Don's recent CSPAN appearance.

After a while, it seemed like Don was auditioning for "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa."

Don, 81, argues his seniority makes him indispensable to Alaskans. He has served 41 years, more terms than any Republican in the House. But Don's seniority no longer translates into significant influence. He chairs no full House committee. He does not have unfettered access to the federal treasury through earmarks, which the House banned in 2010. He is not a leader in the House Republican Conference. It's hard to imagine Speaker John Boehner telling himself as he ponders a national problem, "I better call Don Young."

In fact, the ethics committee's decision to issue a report on Don's improper gifts, generating extensive negative publicity a few months before an election, suggests the House would be happy if Don lost the election. A more respected member could have expected the report to be delayed until Christmas.

In the last decade, here's what has drawn the nation's attention to Congressman Don Young:

• The Bridges to Nowhere, the most infamous earmarks in history, defunded by the House.

• Allegations that Don changed a Transportation Committee bill after it has been signed into law.

• An investigation into his relationship with Veco's Bill Allen, leader of the Corrupt Bastards Club

• Comments about "wetbacks" that drew the ire of the House Republican leaders and Hispanic leaders.

• Those gifts from friends and business interests.

• The Bozo the Clown act televised by CSPAN.

Alaskans don't want a fool for a congressman. But they have no way to discipline Don except vote him out of office. Hence their confusion. Do you really replace Don with a wishy-washy Republican like Sean Parnell, Captain Zero, as Don described him?

Do you replace him with a Democrat when the Democratic Party's generic views on the environment, health care, the economy and gun control are anathema to so many voters? For many Alaskans, Don Young is repugnant but at least he is not a Democrat.

Come election day, you may feel you face a bad choice in the congressional race. But you have to understand Don Young will not change. The octogenarian gong show will continue as long as he is in Washington. Change can only come from you, the voter.

Michael Carey is the former editor of the Anchorage Daily News editorial page. He can be reached at mcarey@adn.com.

Michael Carey