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A Political Hustler To Run The Department Of Energy

Reprinted with permission from The Washington Spectator.

Rick Perry might have been a safe pick as Energy Secretary, but it’s hard to argue that he was a smart one. There are valid reasons—beyond the fact that he once argued that the U.S. Department of Energy should be shut down—that would, in a healthy democracy, disqualify Perry as the CEO of a federal agency with 13,000 employees, plus 93,000 contract workers, and an annual budget of $30 million.

Perry is, to put it kindly, not that bright. He lacks the experience to lead a large bureaucracy, despite the fact that he served as governor of Texas for 14 years. And he’s corrupt.

Trump was onto Perry’s questionable intelligence quotient when the Republican primary field was shaping up in July 2015 and Perry was a fresh and eager contender, just leaning into what would become his second failed attempt to win his party’s presidential nomination.

“He should be forced to take an IQ test before being allowed to enter the GOP debate,” Trump tweeted in mid-July 2015.

“He put glasses on so people will think he’s smart. And it just doesn’t work. People see through those glasses,” Trump said at a South Carolina rally a week after his Twitter swipe at Perry.

Trump was aiming at Perry’s Achilles heel: his head.

There was the “Oops” moment during a debate that undermined Perry’s 2012 primary campaign, when he could only name two of the three federal agencies he had promised to eliminate. The one that slipped his mind was the Department of Energy.

There was the college transcript, which his appointment to lead the DOE again brings into high relief.

The two men who preceded Perry as Energy Secretary were Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize- winning physicist on the faculty at Stanford University, followed by Ernest Moniz, who earned a Ph.D. in theoretical physics at Stanford and chairs the physics department at M.I.T. Perry struggled to obtain an undergraduate degree in animal science at Texas A&M, a struggle evident in a college transcript riddled with Cs and Ds, and one F (in organic chemistry).

And there was the fact that Perry had, indeed, failed an IQ test of sorts, four years before being muscled out of the 2016 primary by Donald Trump.

Today’s American presidential primary is its own test of intelligence (and stamina), although the 2016 race was exceptional, with Trump’s thuggish assaults on the other candidates, and their determination that they could rope-a-dope the heavyweight, absorbing all the punishment Trump could direct at them until an establishment candidate emerged and the vanity candidate punched himself out.

Perry’s IQ test was a “normal” Republican primary in 2012, when a much more agile (and intelligent) Mitt Romney prevailed as Perry stumbled again and again, incapable of holding his own in debates, then staggering through painfully histrionic speeches at CPAC in February 2011 in Washington, and nine months later in New Hampshire, where a bizarrely manneristic soliloquy began with Perry theatrically whipping a four-by-six facsimile flat-tax application out of his jacket pocket and waving it about, then concluded with his embrace of a can of maple syrup.

As chairman and CEO of Exxon, Texan Rex Tillerson has at least run a large organization. Rick Perry has not. The 1876 Texas Constitution created a plural executive, dividing authority among more than 20 independently elected statewide officials. The governor, as defined by the Constitution, doesn’t have a lot of power, while the independently elected lieutenant governor does.

The Texas governor’s power derives from the constitutional authority to make thousands of appointments to the boards and commissions that make the rules and render the decisions by which the state is governed. Perry used his 15 years in the governor’s mansion to enhance the power of the office, appointing every state board member and commissioner, sometimes twice—all of whom were indebted to him.

Many of those debts were paid off as Perry’s campaigns were financed, in part, by $17,115,865 in campaign contributions from 921 political appointees or their spouses, according to the non-profit Texans for Public Justice.

An appointment to the Texas A&M Board of Regents went for $610,000, the largest one-day contribution in the state’s political history, as former U.S. Senator Phil Gramm donated what remained in his campaign fund after Perry appointed Gramm’s wife Wendy Lee Gramm. San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt contributed $450,000 to Perry after being named to the Parks & Wildlife Board, a commission whose appointees donated $2 million to Perry during his tenure as the state’s chief executive.

Other contributors purchased agency rulings or permits. For $1,120,000, Perry’s second largest career contributor, Dallas billionaire investor Harold Simmons, got expedited approval of a nuclear waste disposal site situated in West Texas and underlain by four major aquifers. Eight of Perry’s environmental staffers were opposed to permitting the dump, because the massive Ogallala Aquifer flows 14 feet below the lower extremity of the excavated pit. Three staff members (not political appointees) of the state’s Texas Commission of Environmental Quality resigned when Simmons, known before his death in 2013 as the “king of superfund sites,” secured his permit in 2011.

Perhaps there is a logic to Trump’s appointment of Perry. Texas is the sort of unregulated, small government, tort-reformed, low-tax state that provides a model for what the United States would look like at the end of a Trump presidency. Perry’s years of experience in a state where political money greases the granting of government contracts could be useful at an agency that in the 2015 fiscal year handed out $26 billion to private contractors, an embarrassment of riches in potential political contributions for the national Republican Party.

The friendships Perry cultivates with contractors at the DOE might be helpful in the future, when he begins to raise money for a Senate race against Ted Cruz in 2018. As Texas singer/songwriter Robert Earl Keen might observe, for old political hustlers like Rick Perry, “the road goes on forever and the party never ends.”

IMAGE: Former Texas Governor Rick Perry is sworn in  before testifying at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on his nomination to be Energy secretary on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2017 REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Google To Make Your Life Easier During Presidential Debates

What do you do while watching the presidential debates?

Besides yelling at Carly Fiorina every time she opens her mouth, roll your eyes at Donald Trump, or cheer on Megyn Kelly, you’ll have the opportunity to do more than check Twitter while you chug away your beer. Google announced a partnership with Fox News that enables users to find more about candidates.

In what they bill as an “experimental feature,” when users search for “Fox News Debate,” photos, videos and statements from each of the candidates, in real time, will appear, including answers to questions they may not have been asked to answer on stage. Candidates’ campaigns can also add extended responses and clarifications to what they said during the evening.

Google Trends, Google’s arm that surfaces trending content based on searches, will also surface questions, catchphrases, and other useful content.

According to Google, searches related to politics rise 440 percent during the debates. So instead of furiously Googling what Carly Fiorina’s thoughts are on abortion or Jeb Bush’s record in Florida, Google is making it easier to find what you’re looking for, directly from the candidates.

The information isn’t meant as a fact-checking enterprise, as some early reports might have led you to believe. Google is positioning it as a way for voters to stay informed; it’s certainly a boon to those who won’t be watching, though Fox News will be live-streaming the debate, available even to those without a cable subscription, on their website.

The feature is available starting at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28, in time for the Republican debate. A spokesperson from Google was unable to return phone calls seeking clarification as of press time.

Photo: This is a mockup of what you can expect to find from Google’s new feature. Credit: Google

Even Absent, Trump Will Cast Shadow Over GOP Debate

By David Lightman, McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)

DES MOINES, Iowa — Donald Trump’s going to make a difference in Thursday’s Iowa Republican debate, even though he’ll be absent.

Trump is boycotting the debate, the last before Iowa Republicans signal their choice for a presidential nominee in precinct caucuses Monday evening. He’s annoyed with debate sponsor Fox News and with one of the moderators, Megyn Kelly. In the first GOP debate last year, she pressed him about his derogatory statements about women, and Trump’s been belittling her ever since.

So without him, the two-hour main event at Des Moines’ Iowa Events Center suddenly has an air of mystery. Will Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, Trump’s main challengers, be able to fire away at the real estate mogul without fear of retaliation? Or will the pre- and post-debate chatter be all about the candidate with the guts — or the gall — to skip a debate five days before the vote?

Trump and Cruz are dueling for the Iowa lead, with Rubio winning endorsements from mainstream Republicans and showing some potential to rise.

For others, the debate, and for that matter the caucuses, have different meanings. Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, and John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, are more focused on New Hampshire’s Feb. 9 primary, where the sort of center-right voters sympathetic to their views will be voting in bigger numbers.

But for those at the bottom of the polls, including Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky — who refused to debate earlier this month when he didn’t make the main event — the debate is the latest and perhaps most crucial chapter in the caucus campaign’s closing days.

The debate on the main stage will start at 9 p.m. EST. Four other candidates, including for the first time former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, will vie in a one-hour debate starting at 7 p.m. EST.

The buzz, though, will involve the Big Three. The outlook:

Donald Trump

He’s risen in polls as he raised doubts about Cruz. The debate could have helped him maintain that momentum and boosted the throngs of voters who enthusiastically pack his rallies to show up Monday. His pique at Kelly changed the dynamic.

Political wisdom says that in the days before the Iowa caucuses, a candidate needs to energetically barnstorm the state to show no voter is unimportant. Trump, though, has broken all the rules thus far this year, and he hasn’t been much for person-to-person campaigning.

He’s remained typically Trump. “Let’s see how much money Fox is going to make on the debate without me,” he said Tuesday.

Ted Cruz

He wants to stress policy differences with Trump and will maintain how Trump cared little about conservative principles until he started thinking about a White House run.

Cruz is likely to remind voters how in 2012 Trump was not as tough on undocumented immigrants as he is now, criticizing GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s views. “He had a crazy policy of self-deportation which was maniacal,” Trump said at the time.

Cruz could also go after Trump, who has close ties to Wall Street interests, for supporting the financial bailout of 2008. Trump did have reservations, saying “maybe it works and maybe it doesn’t.” Cruz is vulnerable, though, to reminders that he borrowed a half-million dollars from Goldman Sachs.

Marco Rubio

He’s trying to solidify his position as the darling of the Republican mainstream. The Des Moines Register and the Sioux City Journal, two of Iowa’s most influential newspapers, endorsed him in recent days. Monday, he appeared with “good friend” Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa.

Rubio, though, has had trouble getting noticed in debates. Trump and Cruz have waged lively fights, while Rubio tends to be lost in the Kasich-Christie-Carson-Bush crowd. He’s also endured a series of ads from a super PAC backing Bush suggesting Rubio is a serial flip-flopper.

©2016 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa, January 26, 2016. REUTERS/Scott Morgan


Trump And Fox News Trade Insults Over Megyn Kelly At Debate

Update: Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has now told reporters that Trump “will not be participating in the Fox debate” as a result of Megyn Kelly being there, and that this decision is “not under negotiation.”

At a press conference, Trump said Fox’s response to him (see below) was “written by a child,” and he declared of his likely debate absence: “Let’s see how much money FOX is going to make on the debate without me.”

For what it’s worth, this writer still thinks Trump is bluffing. Let’s wait and see.

Late Update: Actually, Trump is increasingly starting to look like he might really mean it.

Donald Trump is ramping up his threat to boycott this Thursday’s Republican debate on Fox News, if Fox anchor Megyn Kelly remains one of the co-moderators. But again, the question remains: Is he serious about ditching the debate — or is this instead the bravado of a pro-wrestling villain, drumming up more ratings for a debate he will indeed attend?

In either case, it doesn’t look like the people at Fox are enjoying this.

Trump posted this poll Tuesday on Twitter, asking his supporters/fans whether he should attend the debate.

The Donald also posted an accompanying video to Instagram, in which he says to the camera: “Megyn Kelly’s really biased against me. She knows that, I know that, everybody knows that. Do you really think she can be fair at a debate?”

Should I do the #GOPdebate?

A video posted by Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on

In response, a Fox News spokesperson gave this rather interesting statement to Mediaite:

We learned from a secret back channel that the Ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president — a nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the Cabinet with his Twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings.

Trump soon responded on Twitter:

Well, that should calm things down.

At the very first Republican debate this past August, Kelly asked Trump about previous offensive comments he had publicly made about women who were adversaries of his, such as calling them “fat pigs,” “dogs,” “slobs,” and “disgusting animals.”

Soon after the debate, Trump later commented in the press about Kelly: “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her — wherever.” The remark was widely interpreted as a remark about her menstrual cycle — a charge that he has denied. He also said during the ensuing controversy, “she asked me a very inappropriate question. She should really be apologizing to me, you want to know the truth.”

Since then, Trump has been in running feud with Kelly that he just won’t let go, and has often threatened that he would refuse to appear on the channel at all, which would deprive them of the ratings that would come from the GOP frontrunner. Of course, he’s just kept going on the channel, anyway. After all, he’s got the ratings — but they’ve got the Republican voters.