Former Governor Rick Perry of Texas arrives at the Quicken Loans Arena before the evening session of the opening day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, July 18, 2016.
Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

Rick Perry’s background won’t match his responsibilities

Not long after Donald Trump chose former Gov. Rick Perry (R) as his nominee for Energy Secretary, much of the political world said the selection made perfect sense – because Perry’s from Texas.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), for example, applauded the choice, noting that Perry led an “energy-rich state.” Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) added, “Governor Rick Perry will be a remarkable Secretary of Energy. He is the longest serving Texas Governor in history.”

Gingrich’s praise had an important flaw: the first sentence had nothing to do with the second. The Secretary of the Interior oversees oil, gas, and coal development, not the Secretary of Energy. Much of the political world assumed that Perry’s background in a state with lots of oil drilling made him a fine choice for the Department of Energy, not realizing how little sense that made.

Politico had a good piece yesterday with a helpful review for those who are confused.
The agency’s chief responsibility isn’t energy policy: It’s maintaining and overseeing the country’s nuclear weapons stockpile and cleaning up nuclear waste, a role critical to America’s national security. There’s a reason that President Barack Obama’s two energy secretaries, Ernest Moniz and Steven Chu, were both physicists.

Given his resume – former Texas governor, Air Force pilot and “Dancing with the Stars” contestant – is Perry a worrisome choice to lead an agency with that kind of technical responsibility?
Well, sure. We can certainly hope that Perry hits the books and gets himself up to speed quickly, but it’s hard not to notice the gap between his skill set and the job he’ll soon have.

The fact much of the political world is reflecting on this despite having no idea what the Department of Energy does isn’t helping.

The Daily Beast had a related report on this the other day, adding, “[I]n recent years, the trend has been to appoint a Secretary of Energy with real technical expertise. President Bush appointed Samuel Bodman, who had a distinguished career as an MIT-trained chemical engineer before making a fortune in the private sector. President Obama upped the ante, appointing Berkeley’s Steven Chu and MIT’s Ernest Moniz to the position. Both are physicists. Chu has a Nobel Prize. By contrast, Perry took four chemistry courses and got two Cs, a D and an F. He got a C in physics. And a D in something called ‘Meat.’”