The Trump Administration in a Nutshell: Rick Perry’s “Learning Curve” On the Nuclear Arsenal





The incompetence of the Trump administration may reach peak horror with Rick Perry as Secretary of Energy. 

OK, so, here’s the most darkly comic thing you’ll read today, I hope.

WASHINGTON — When President-elect Donald J. Trump offered Rick Perrythe 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.

Two-thirds of the agency’s annual $30 billion budget is devoted to maintaining, refurbishing and keeping safe the nation’s nuclear stockpile; thwarting nuclear proliferation; cleaning up and rebuilding an aging constellation of nuclear production facilities; and overseeing national laboratories that are considered the crown jewels of government science.

“If you asked him on that first day he said yes, he would have said, ‘I want to be an advocate for energy,’” said Michael McKenna, a Republican energy lobbyist who advised Mr. Perry’s 2016 presidential campaign and worked on the Trump transition’s Energy Department team in its early days. “If you asked him now, he’d say, ‘I’m serious about the challenges facing the nuclear complex.’ It’s been a learning curve.”

Well, at least now he’s serious about wanting to learn it. And he wears glasses, so it should be a piece of cake!

Let’s break this down here, ok?

  • In 2011, Rick Perry had his most famous, and his worst, moment as a politician, when in a GOP primary debate he couldn’t remember the three agencies he wanted to cut, stumbling over the Department of Energy. It probably killed his Presidential chances (remember back then when being an obvious dolt hurt your chances?). We know now that he wanted to cut the DOE even though he had no idea what it did. Odds are (and this is just speculating) he assumed it regulated oil and gas companies. It’s almost comforting he didn’t know it kept safe the nation’s nuclear stockpile, because otherwise, who in their right mind would cut it?
  • In 2015, after bumbling his way out of another Presidential race, he called Donald Trump a “cancer on conservativism“. I don’t think this is accurate (Trump is the clear inheritor of Wallace and Reagan and Gingrich), but from a certain angle, it is principled.
  • In 2016, after Trump won the electoral college, he nominated Rick Perry to be the energy secretary. Accepting after the cancer thing is garden-level hypocrisy, and from a certain rosy angle, speaks well of both men to let bygones be bygones.
  • Accepting it after wanting it to be destroyed is garden-level Republican horribleness (but their baseline terribleness is extremely high; the garden level is at the penthouse of Trump Tower). It is part and parcel of Trump appointing unacceptable Cabinet members solely to destroy the department they are heading. Betsy Devos at Education, Andy Pudzler at Labor, Scott Pruitt at the EPA, etc. So it makes sense to appoint Rick “Oops” Perry to run it.
  • But only if you think that the Energy is about regulating oil and gas. 
  • On a slightly more generous take, maybe Trump also thought the department was about “being an advocate” and a “global ambassador”, though even from that interpretation, it sounds more like it is about throwing off the horrible regulatory shackles that are placed around the necks and legs and arms of our broken-down skid row oil executives.
  • But really think about what this means: Rick Perry and Donald Trump presumably had a conversation about whether or not Perry wanted the job, and in that entire time, neither one of them had any clue about the job being offered. The actual duties either somehow didn’t come up, or they did and both men were essentially bluffing. “You know you’ll be…” “Yeah, advocating for energy, and uh…” “Yeah, exactly.”
  • (Sidenote: “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.”)
  • The “professionals” around Trump also somehow let this one slide.
  • Even after learning that the job wasn’t about gladhandling, breaking the ankles of regulators, and buttering up oil men, and instead was more about protecting our nuclear arsenal, Rick Perry still accepted.
  • But it’s ok, because: “Mr. Perry’s backers also note that Texas is home to Pantex, an Energy Department plant where nuclear weapons are assembled.” Well, I guess that’s a… “But as governor, he had no role in running the facility.” Oh.
  • But it’s ok, because: leadership! ““Like with any of these positions in Washington, what is needed is strong leadership skills,” Deirdre Delisi, his former chief of staff, said. “I have no doubt he will be able to attract the best and the brightest.”

And that’s Trumpism, or at least one aspect of it. Complete and utter disregard for what it actually means to govern. A simulacrum of competence. A hatred of actual expertise. The belief that a swaggering white man can handle pretty much anything, based on that swagger. A complete con.

This is happening. Rick Perry will most likely be in charge of maintaining our nuclear arsenal, and overseeing laboratories. Making budget decisions about science. Rick Perry!

Rick Perry! For the love of god.

(Note: the above picture is an exaggeration. He’s not going to be making decisions about whether to use nukes. Just be in charge of making sure that nothing goes wrong. Lower-level people are the ones who actually handle making sure our ICBMs aren’t accidentally launched or anything, but Perry controls their budget, and in theory makes the final decisions. One can only hope that he’s cowed enough by how difficult the job actually is that he just listens to his employees and doesn’t hire based on politics. Christ, just typing that gave me the cold sweats.)

One thought on “The Trump Administration in a Nutshell: Rick Perry’s “Learning Curve” On the Nuclear Arsenal

  1. Pingback: A-Change is Gonna Come: Trump and the GOP Plan to Sell The Country Off | Shooting Irrelevance

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