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Rick Perry, Confirmed As Energy Secretary, Could End Up Being Trump's Best Cabinet Pick

Rick Perry at his confirmation hearing to become Energy Secretary.
Rick Perry at his confirmation hearing to become Energy Secretary.
Screengrab

Well, former governor Rick Perry has been confirmed as Secretary of Energy, and, stranger still, appears to be one of the best candidates President Donald Trump has tapped to join his cabinet.

Remember when Perry’s being appointed to head up the agency he once vowed to get rid of seemed like the worst choice the nascent Trump administration could possibly make?

Yeah, we barely remember it either.

In the weeks since then, the assemblage of Trump's cabinet has become so fraught with run-of-the-mill controversy (Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary, for instance) and more distinctly troubling scandal (Michael Flynn was forced to resign as national security adviser after a month on the job because of his communications with the Russian ambassador) that the time when Perry as Energy Secretary came across as one of the worst possible choices Trump could make feels like a distant memory from a simpler, more naive time.

Sure, Perry's confirmation hearing wasn't a piece of cake. He had to tackle his infamous "Oops" moment — that time Perry was running for president in 2011 and forgot the name of the Energy Department, one of the three departments he said he would eliminate if he won the presidency —  right out of the gate during the hearing in January. But Perry dealt with that gracefully, explaining that now that he understood the "vital functions" of the department, he realized it was a terrible idea to eliminate it.

Despite lacking in the typical bona fides that go with the gig — the previous secretary was a physicist from MIT — Perry also managed to demonstrate some basic knowledge of what the Department of Energy does, and got through the hearing without any major missteps. (Aside from one point during the hearing when Perry stepped in it beautifully in an exchange with Senator Al Franken, implying he and Franken had enjoyed a very pleasant time on the senator's couch.)

Altogether, though, Perry got through the process with more grace and aplomb than expected, as we noted at the time.

He's been cooling his heels ever since the hearing, waiting to find out if the Senate would sign off on his appointment. Meanwhile, the other picks for the Trump administration have inadvertently been making Perry look really good. Seriously.

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After all, the former governor of Texas is both aware that he does not actually know everything there is to know about the department he will be leading, and has expressed a willingness to learn. At the same time, he does know a bit about energy — you can't run this state for more than a decade and not absorb something on the subject.

Plus, the odds seem reasonably good that, unlike others in Trump's cabinet, Perry has not been hanging out with the Russian ambassador. He's not buddies with Vladimir Putin as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has. He hasn't been caught lying about the nature of conversations with the Russian ambassador like Flynn. He hasn't (apparently, and as far as we know) talked to the Russian ambassador at all, in fact, unlike Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Just hours after Perry's confirmation was announced on Thursday, Sessions gave in and recused himself from any current or future investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election after it came out that Sessions also met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak last year, and failed to disclose this fact during his own confirmation hearings. Shortly after that, The New York Times reported that Flynn and Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, also met with Kislyak at Trump Tower in December.

Meanwhile, Perry is now Energy Secretary, sans scandals, deeply embarrassing public gaffes (Perry has made his awkwardness such a part of his political persona he didn't even turn a hair during the Franken couch business) and sans any obvious ties to Russia. Well done.

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