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Rick Perry's Energy Secretary Confirmation Hearing Wasn't a Disaster

Former-Gov. Rick Perry showed up in all his glory for the confirmation hearings that are the next step he has to undergo to become Energy Secretary.
Former-Gov. Rick Perry showed up in all his glory for the confirmation hearings that are the next step he has to undergo to become Energy Secretary.
Screengrab from PBS Newshour

Reason and experience might have led you to bet that former Governor Rick Perry's confirmation hearing to become Secretary of Energy on Thursday would be a mess, but that's not actually what happened.

Yep, once again Perry has defied odds and expectations and come off as more-or-less competent during his confirmation hearing to be the head of the department that oversees energy policy and the nation's nuclear weapons arsenal.

Now, this is not to say that Perry's performance was flawless. The exchange between Perry and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Thursday could have been better, but it also could have been so much worse.

Coming amid the questions about how much Perry really understood what he was agreeing to when he accepted Trump's offer to serve as head of the department he once planned to eliminate, maybe the lowered expectations actually did Perry some good. He came off better than some of Trump's other cabinet nominees (ahem, Betsy DeVos) and overall sounded as if he at least had some idea of what he was talking about. We shouldn't be surprised, though — this is just how Perry does Perry, as we've previously noted.

Perry is a fascinating character on the political stage. Over his many years in politics, he has been both the canniest operator in the room and the buffoon who makes ridiculous mistakes in full view of the public. He alternates between making missteps and political gaffes that would have ended other careers and managing to repeatedly, somehow, right himself and his prospects. Case in point: the cabinet position he is now up for.

During his confirmation hearing before the Energy Committee, Perry showed up ready to really talk about the job and answer questions.

He tackled his infamous "Oops" moment — that time when he 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.

"After being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination," Perry told the Energy Committee.

Perry also adjusted his stances on key issues, like climate change, acknowledging that climate change does actually exist. Senator Bernie Sanders tried to get Perry to directly address the climate change question, but Perry refused to get into specifics or to step up and call climate change a "crisis." “I like getting past the rhetoric,” Perry replied, using his best rhetoric to dodge ever getting pinned down on the issue.

But at the end of the day, Perry still managed to have an exchange with Senator Al Franken that was gloriously off. To be fair, Franken started off the oddness by noting that Perry had met with him at his office before the confirmation hearing.

"Governor, thank you for coming into my office," Franken says. "Did you enjoy meeting me?"

"I hope you're as much fun on that dais as you were on your couch," Perry replies.

Franken pauses a beat and then awkwardly says, "Well..."

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"May I rephrase that please?"

"Please. Please. Please. Oh my lord," Franken says."Oh my lord."

"Well, I think we found our Saturday Night Live soundbite," Perry responds, getting a laugh.

Just imagine what the writers over at SNL (of which Franken is an alum) will have to work with once Perry is actually ensconced in the gig. The possibilities are both unpredictable and endless, much like Perry's ability to continually reinvent himself.

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