President-elect Donald Trump has selected Rick Perry to serve as energy secretary, placing him at the head of an agency he once promised to eliminate and forgot the name of in a 2011 presidential candidate’s debate.
Many have already criticized Trump’s decision in light of Perry’s famous gaffe, but also in part due to the political implications.
“The Rich Perry choice is so perplexing,” said former North Dakota Senator Bryan Dorgon according to the New York Times. “I think very few people understand that the Energy Department, to a very substantial degree, is dealing with nuclear weapons, and Rick Perry suggested the agency should be abolished. That suggests he thinks it doesn’t have value.”
The Energy Department has already signaled that they are distrustful of Trump’s intentions. The department rejected a request from the Trump transition team for names of individuals in the department connected to tackling climate change issues.
Energy Department spokesman Eben Burnham-Snyder said the request left many employees “unsettled,” stating instead that the department would only provide publicly available information.
According to CNN, at a conference Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, “Our principle – this is a principle that presidents of both parties have long abided by – is that we should observe the protections that are in place that ensure that career civil servants are evaluated based on merit and not on politics. I’m sure the President-elect used the same kind of criteria when choosing his new Department of Energy secretary as well, don’t you think?”
The last two energy secretaries were Ernest Moniz and Steven Chu, both of whom had doctorates in physics and a long list of academic credentials that made them credible scientists capable of understanding the technical aspects of the department, which spends about 60 percent of its budget on the National Nuclear Security Administration according to the New York Times.
Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas and agricultural commissioner, studied animal science in college and in his 2010 book called suggestions of human-caused climate change a “contrived, phony mess.”
At a 2011 town hall, Rick said, “I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects,” according to NBC News.
Perry ran for president in 2012, but dropped out in a statement sharing that he no longer felt he could win in the elections, something many attributed to his mistake in forgetting the name of the energy sector.
During a 2011 Republican presidential debate, Perry famously said, “I will tell you, it is three agencies of government when I get there that are gone: Commerce, Education, and — what’s the third one there? Let’s see … The third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops.”
He also had a brief run for the 2016 election, but dropped out in 2015 well before the primaries, instead endorsing fellow Republican candidate Ted Cruz. During his short-lived 2016 campaign, Rick Perry called Trump a “cancer on conservatism,” according to the New York Times, but the new appointment suggests Rick may have changed his tune.
Perry was seen entering and leaving Trump Tower on Monday but avoided answering any questions from reporters.
Both Rick Perry and Donald Trump have personal ties to the Dakota Access Pipeline, which the Obama administration recently denied an easement for, temporarily halting work on the pipeline but not stopping it entirely. Perry sits on the corporate board of Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of Dakota Access LLC. Trump has promised that he would see the pipeline through if it made it to his desk during his administration, according to USA Today.
[Featured Image by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]