Not too many Republicans outside of Alaska will claim Rep. Don Young, and most of us in the lower 48 began wondering years ago why voters up there kept him in Congress. Young brings home the pork-barrel bacon, though, which apparently pays for a lot of embarrassment. Therefore, Alaska voters, here’s what your votes buy you:
Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) issued an apology Thursday after using the term “wetbacks” to describe Latino workers on his family farm.
“During a sit down interview with Ketchikan Public Radio this week, I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California. I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect,” Young said in a statement to the Alaska Dispatch.
Young made the comment during an interview with KRDB-FM radio in Alaska about the current immigration reform legislation being debated in Congress. Young said he feared that the country had exported too many vital industry jobs, while agreeing that automation and technological advances had reduced the number of labor positions available.
“My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes,” he told the station. “It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.”
Don’t think that Young hasn’t picked up some survival skills from his 40 years in Congress. (Seriously; he just passed his 40th anniversary as Alaska’s sole Representative three weeks ago.) In an attempt to seize an ex post facto Get Out Of PC Jail Free card, Young immediately used his apology to proclaim his support for comprehensive immigration reform:
In the statement to the Dispatch apologizing for his remarks, Young says that he believes Congress should “once and for all tackle the issue of immigration reform.”
“Migrant workers play an important role in America’s workforce, and earlier in the said interview, I discussed the compassion and understanding I have for these workers and the hurdles they face in obtaining citizenship,” Young said.
Nor is that the only embarrassment that Alaska voters should feel in providing Young a lifetime appointment. A little over a week ago, the House Ethics Committee announced a probe into Young’s activities on Capitol Hill, including whether he’d lied to federal officials:
In Young’s case, the ethics panel said it is examining whether he improperly received gifts, used official and campaign resources for personal use or made false statement to federal officials. Young, first elected to Congress in 1973, is a former chairman of two House committees.
More than two years ago, the Justice Department declined to prosecute Young on allegations that he improperly accepted gifts and political contributions from the oil industry in exchange for official actions.
There has to be another Republican not named Begich, Murkowski, or Young in Alaska. Maybe voters up there will spare us the embarrassment by finding one for 2014.
Update: I know the Begiches are Democrats, but was trying to emphasize the clannish hold on power up in Alaska. Consider it prosaic license.