Rick Perry: Stupid or evil? AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
Energy Secretary-designate, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, smiles as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

“We have two parties here, and only two. One is the evil party, and the other is the stupid party. I’m very proud to be a member of the stupid party. Occasionally, the two parties get together to do something that’s both evil and stupid. That’s called bipartisanship.”

The source of that quote is disputed, but regardless of who said it, former Texas governor Rick Perry, presently President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to head the Energy Department, seems to belong in one of those categories. At the moment I’m not quite sure which.

Perry, recall, made his biggest splash in national politics by forgetting during a 2011 Republican primary debate the third of three federal agencies he wanted to eliminate:

In a bizarre twist of fate, Perry is now in line to be secretary of the very department he forgot. Oops.

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It’s that apparent hypocrisy that led Perry to plan remarks that have left me wondering what category ? stupid or evil ? is the best fit. Politico reports:

The former Texas governor infamously forgot DOE?s name when he called for its elimination in a 2011 Republican presidential primary debate, a position he disavows in prepared remarks released ahead of the hearing.

“My past statements made over five years ago about abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current thinking,” Perry plans to say. “In fact, after being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination.”

So one of two things is happening here. On the one hand, maybe Perry is sincerely changing his mind upon learning new information about the DOE. That doesn’t deserve the epithet “flip-flopping,” but it does mean he was unacceptably lazy about researching his own views back when he was campaigning for the highest office in the land. Notice he’s not saying his philosophy of government has changed, but rather that he has now been “briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy.” That really seems like something that should have happened before it became the third item on his hit list.


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The other option is that Perry is and has been exactly as well-informed as his new nerd glasses suggest and is simply making a naked grasp for power. He has been presented with a Cabinet seat and is willing to take it even though he does not believe he will be the administrator of a legitimate federal department.

Which is worse? I’m inclined to say the latter, but neither casts Perry in anything resembling a positive light.

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