Report: Rick Perry Didn’t Know That The Energy Secretary Oversees America’s Nukes (UPDATED)

Getty Image

When Donald Trump nominated Rick Perry as Energy Secretary, people reacted with amusement that swiftly transformed into fear. The former feeling sprang from the realization that Trump picked Perry to run a department that he famously wanted to eliminate (although he once forgot what the department was called). The latter emotion came with the realization that Perry would oversee testing of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Not only that, but Trump wants to quickly begin testing, which hasn’t properly happened since 1992.

Welllll, things are about to get even more awkward, thanks to a New York Times report, which reveals that Perry accepted the job without fully realizing what Trump had nominated him for. He truly had no inkling what it meant to run the Department of Energy. Nope, Perry thought Trump asked him to be an oil and gas ambassador who would enjoy fabulous global adventures. Or something like that:

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.

This new revelation only adds to the strangeness of Trump’s appointment process. Perry’s a notorious climate-change denier, but it’s easy to see how he could have been so excited to accept an appointment — any gig at all — from his pal Trump. Yet once he realized the mistake, Perry didn’t back away from the position. This fine mess should make for an even more combative confirmation hearing than was already expected. And those DWTS moves won’t help Perry in the hot seat!

The NY Times also adds word from Republican energy lobbyist Michael McKenna, who helped out the Trump transition team and witnessed the realization’s aftermath: “It’s been a learning curve.” Undoubtedly. The previous occupants of the position were nuclear scientists, after all.

If approved by the Senate, he will take over from a secretary, Ernest J. Moniz, who was chairman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology physics department and directed the linear accelerator at M.I.T.’s Laboratory for Nuclear Science. Before Mr. Moniz, the job belonged to Steven Chu, a physicist who won a Nobel Prize.

For Mr. Moniz, the future of nuclear science has been a lifelong obsession; he spent his early years working at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. Mr. Perry studied animal husbandry and led cheers at Texas A&M University.

UPDATE: Some have pointed out that Perry acknowledged that the Energy Secretary oversees America’s nuclear arsenal in a statement on the day he accepted the job, which would of course dispute the New York Times’ assertion that he didn’t know the full scope of the role.

“It is a tremendous honor to be selected to serve as Secretary of Energy by President-elect Trump. I am deeply humbled by his trust in me,” Perry said that day. “As the former governor of the nation’s largest energy producing state, I know American energy is critical to our economy and our security. I look forward to engaging in a conversation about the development, stewardship and regulation of our energy resources, safeguarding our *nuclear arsenal*, and promoting an American energy policy that creates jobs and puts America first.”

(Via New York Times)