Former Gov. Rick Perry prepares to address the National Press Club's Newsmaker Luncheon on his economic plan on July 2, 2015.
Photo by Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty

Trump offered Rick Perry a job neither one of them understood

An official at the Department of Energy recently found it necessary to “carefully explain” to a Trump transition aide what the agency actually does. The official did so after the Trump staffer “aide asked a series of questions that indicated he wasn’t quite sure about the department’s portfolio.”

As it turns out, the ignorance is widespread in Trump World, as evidenced by this New York Times article on the man the president-elect chose to lead the agency.
When President-elect Donald J. Trump offered Rick Perry the job of energy secretary five weeks ago, Mr. Perry gladly accepted, believing he was taking on a role as a global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry that he had long championed in his home state.

In the days after, Mr. Perry, the former Texas governor, discovered that he would be no such thing – that in fact, if confirmed by the Senate, he would become the steward of a vast national security complex he knew almost nothing about, caring for the most fearsome weapons on the planet, the United States’ nuclear arsenal.
Revelations like these aren’t just scary for the public; they’re also deeply embarrassing for the amateurs who’ll tomorrow take over the executive branch of the world’s largest superpower.

For Perry, whose confirmation hearing begins today, this is obviously cringe-worthy. Four years ago, the then-governor was determined to eliminate the Department of Energy, despite not knowing what the agency does. The DOE has a major research laboratory in Texas, but Perry, who led the state for 14 years, still never learned anything about the department’s work.

If the Times’ reporting is correct, the Republican then accepted a cabinet post without having any idea what his responsibilities would be.

But as bad as Perry looks, let’s not overlook his future boss.

Donald Trump could’ve Googled “Department of Energy” while putting together his cabinet, taken 30 seconds to read an overview of the agency’s work, and considered qualified people. If the president-elect didn’t feel like doing any of this, Trump could’ve assigned this basic task to someone on his payroll.

But Trump and his team never bothered.

Who looks more foolish: Perry for accepting a job he knew nothing about or Trump for offering a job he knew nothing about?

Postscript: The Daily Beast recently noted, “[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.”

Perry, however, studied “animal husbandry and led cheers at Texas A&M University.”