Pubdate: Thu, 07 Apr 2016
Source: Alaska Dispatch News (AK)
Copyright: 2016 Alaska Dispatch Publishing
Note: Anchorage Daily News until July '14
Author: Erica Martinson


Alaska's sole congressman, Don Young, spoke at a Native issues forum 
in Juneau on Tuesday, answering audience questions in classic Don Young style.

In a meeting sponsored by the Central Council Tlingit and Haida 
Indian Tribes of Alaska and Sealaska Corp., which was live-streamed 
online, Young, 83, held forth on the Trump phenomenon, legalized 
marijuana, dealing with Alaska's growing heroin problem, and his 
future in Congress.

On Donald Trump:

Young was asked his feelings on the GOP presidential race. In a radio 
interview last week, the congressman declared his support for Ohio 
Gov. John Kasich and implied that he questions real estate mogul 
Donald Trump's qualifications when it comes to the economy.

In Juneau, he was more forthcoming in his views on Trump.

"I'm starting a write-in campaign for Don Young; how's that sound?" 
Young joked. "I'm a little frustrated in (the) sense that anybody can 
join any party," he said. With just $100, "Jack the Ripper" could run 
for Congress in Alaska, he said.

"I am not happy with the way this presidential nomination works. I 
haven't been happy for a long time. These are not debates. That's the 
biggest joke," Young said. "I'm not worried about the size of your 
hand, or your wife's looks, or all these other things. It's 
silliness," he said, alluding to Trump's repeated interest in 
defending the size of his hands and his efforts to malign the 
appearance of Heidi Cruz, the wife of Sen. Ted Cruz, in a line that 
garnered applause from the audience.

"And the media loves it ... and we're dumb enough to watch it," Young 
said. "And I'm not supporting Donald Trump. I've said that publicly. 
I'm supporting Kasich. Because I think he's the smartest one of the 
bunch. But the people don't think he has any pizzazz. He happens to 
have one of the best brains, got the experience, knows how to do the 
job, (but) 'Oh, he's not exciting enough,' " Young said.

"Now who do I blame?" he asked, pointing to the audience. "The 
people. A bunch of idiots following Pied Piper over the edge of the 
cliff. That's who I blame. They ought to know better than that. I 
mean, nobody wants to read anymore. No one wants to find out the 
background anymore. And they blame Donald Trump. I blame the people."

On marijuana legalization:

Don Young has never smoked marijuana, but he's happy to defend 
Alaskans' rights to do so, he said Tuesday. He railed against putting 
users in jail, and even touted the quality of Interior Alaska's weed.

The issue of marijuana legalization in Alaska "is very frankly dear 
to my heart, because I do believe in states' rights and individual 
rights," Young said, noting that he has signed on to bills in 
Congress that would expand the state's ability to make a go of legal 
marijuana. "Either you're for states' rights or you're against it. 
You can't have it both ways."

"The second thing is, I have never smoked marijuana. Now, I have a 
lot of my, frankly, relatives that do ... They were smoking it long 
before most of you were born, by the way. Very prevalent, especially 
in Interior -- we grow great stuff up there," he added.

"But it is habit-forming; I don't care what they say. It is a 
detriment to the individual. It is less violent than alcohol," Young said.

But when it comes to more testing -- the state's on its own, Young 
said. The "state legalized it, they also ought to have a program -- 
take some of the tax money and use it to study the effects of 
marijuana over a long period of time."

"We had legalized marijuana in the state of Alaska for 12 years. And 
it was no big deal. And we re-criminalized it because we didn't get 
the money to work on cocaine, and heroin and the other types of drugs 
we had. So we re-criminalized so that we'd get the federal dollars," 
Young said.

Young also took issue with using taxpayer money to put drug users in 
jail. "We're spending more money now on prisoners than we are (on) 
students. Now does that make sense? And we want to build more jails! 
What is the crime a person committed? He smoked a joint," Young said.

Young said it is a "waste of human life" to put drug users in jail 
when they have committed no other crimes. "And we don't come to grips 
with this, we're not going to be able to survive as a society. It's a 
waste of humanity."

On hard drugs:

When it comes to heroin and other "hard" drugs spreading across the 
state, Young advocated prevention and education -- and death for dealers.

Heroin addiction has become an epidemic nationwide, and Young 
advocated focusing on prevention -- finding out "why people are using 
it" and requiring community service, rather than punishing offenders 
with jail time.

But for dealers, he had another route:

"I have the D&D program: You're dealing, you're dead. That solves the 
problem. Now, I betcha we can't do that. Now when's the last time you 
saw a dealer being prosecuted?" Young said, adding that he feels drug 
dealers are essentially murderers.

And in villages, Young urged local responsibility for ferreting out 
those bringing in drugs.

"There isn't a village that doesn't know who the dealer is. Now, may 
be your cousin, may be your brother, may be your sister, may be your 
wife or your husband. But the dealer is guilty," Young said.

Young said he supports new federal funds headed to Alaska for 
treatment and education.

Getting rid of the dealers is "going to take a little bit of courage 
on your own behalf," Young told the audience. "You always can't 
expect somebody to do it for you. And you should have a right under 
the courts and with the legal aspect of the villages, especially," to 
do what is necessary.

"It's something we all have to solve together. We can't do it by 
government edict, by passing a law. It has to be giving you help for 
treatment, and also prevention, and make sure that individuals 
committing that murder ... make sure they pay for it."

On dating in his 80s, and his new wife:

Young, who married in July, fawned a bit over his new wife, and 
passed along some dating advice for other widowers in the crowd.

"And for you guys that might lose your wives -- the chasing's not 
fun. Believe me. In the first place, your legs are not what they were 
before. That's number one. And then you forget what you're going to 
do when you catch it."

His plans for (re)election:

Young isn't planning to retire any time soon, and is feeling vigorous 
despite his advanced age, he said Tuesday.

"I've said a lot of times, if I can find a young man or a young woman 
that believes in this state, and believes in the House of 
Representatives, and would stay there instead of running for 
governor, or running for senator, I might support 'em," Young said.

"But right now, I'm running hard ... I'll probably run in '85 -- 
excuse me, 2018," he said.

"I enjoy what I do. I like what I do. And I truly will fight till my 
last dying breath for the state of Alaska -- Alaska Natives 
especially," he said.

Young told the crowd that he has never wanted to be a senator. He 
wanted to run for governor in 1980, he said. But his first wife, Lu, 
"looked at me with those Athabascan eyes and said, 'No, you're not 
running for governor.' And I said, 'Why not?' And she said, 'You have 
to be a son of a bitch to be a good governor,' " Young relayed.

"And that sort of hurt my feelings, quite frankly. I thought I was."

One more Young-ism for the road:

"I've always said in this business perseverance overcomes 
intelligence any day of the year. And I'm a classic example. My 
perseverance will whip my intelligence any day of the year. I'll chew 
on your leg until they finally take and cut it off."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom