Former Texas Governor Rick Perry has learned the disarming art of self-deprecation well since the “oops” moment in 2011 that’s become so famous it’s got its own section on his Wikipedia page. Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the nuclear energy-focused Department of Energy went through his confirmation hearings in front of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Thursday, and spotted a moment to let the senators know he won’t toe the line for Trump while showing he’s a little self-aware, too — maybe unlike his boss.
Here’s how it went down. Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono told Perry that news reports released Thursday morning indicated that Trump’s transition team wanted to make dramatic cuts to the department he’ll likely oversee. Perry saw his opening.
It was “oops” time:
Hirono: Just this morning we learned that the Trump transition team intends to propose eliminating the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Office of Electricity, scrap the Office of Fossil Energy — which focuses on technology to reduce carbon dioxide emissions — and make other massive cuts to your department. It’s hard to see how we can pursue and “all over the above” strategy if so much of the department’s “all of the above” capabilities are eliminated. Do you support these cuts, yes or no?
Perry: Well senator, maybe they’ll have the same experience I had and forget that they said that.
Hirono: We’re counting on you, we’re counting on you to educate the incoming president. Moving on.
It worked. The room laughed, but it’s likely that it won’t change Trump’s mind. Whether Trump’s actually able to cut those offices remains to be seen.
Perry was an unconventional pick to oversee the Department of Energy, and as was reported this week, a lobbyist close to Perry told the New York Times there had a been a “learning curve.”
In Perry’s opening statements to the committee, he said he was wrong to propose deleting the Department of Energy during his presidential campaign run in 2011.
“My past statements made over five years ago about abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current thinking,” Perry said. “In fact, after being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination.”
The former Texas governor’s an expert in natural energy in the way’s Trump wants — business friendly with little concern for environmental issues — but he’s also going to be in charge of American physics. And also, the Department of Energy doesn’t produce much energy, so there’s that. Oops.
Photos via Getty Images / Aaron P. Bernstein