Bud Kennedy

Secretary Perry? Don’t laugh: Rick Perry could help Trump team

Gov. Rick Perry, seen here before the Las Vegas debate, was a tireless campaigner for Donald J. Trump.
Gov. Rick Perry, seen here before the Las Vegas debate, was a tireless campaigner for Donald J. Trump. bud@star-telegram.com

Five years ago, Gov. Rick Perry couldn’t remember the Energy Department.

Now, he might be energy secretary.

There is no better example of this through-the-looking-glass transition than the rehabilitation of Perry from late-night punchline to Cabinet material.

He followed the new path to stardom:

Step 1: Disgruntled Washington critic,

Step 2: Reality TV star, and

Step 3: White House.

If Perry’s turn on Dancing With the Stars landed him new followers, his support for Republican nominee Donald J. Trump won him friends in high places.

Perry endorsed Trump on May 6, even as his website still called Trump unfit.

By the end of the campaign, he was a genial guest surrogate for Trump, telling Fox Business at the Las Vegas debate Oct. 19 that he didn’t want to “sit here and split hairs” on Trump’s various contradictory statements.

Perry’s long alliance with New York Republican Rudy Giuliani no doubt helped him support Trump and might help him into an administration sorely in need of Perry’s experience both as a governor and military veteran.

In other words:

Don’t laugh.

“Perry would be a strong choice,” TCU political science professor James Riddlesperger responded Thursday by email.

“He would be a liaison to the biggest Republican state, would add a ‘team of rivals’ flavor to the cabinet, and would be a Washington outsider with a lot of political experience.”

Riddlesperger also pointed out that Perry wouldn’t have to give up a seat in Congress.

U.S. Reps. Jeb Hensarling and Mike McCaul have been mentioned as possible Treasury and homeland security secretaries, and Dallas campaign donors such as restaurateur Ray Washburne and banker Andy Beal may be in the mix. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz had interviewed for attorney general before Trump picked U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)

TCU professor Emily M. Farris emailed that after this campaign, the famous Perry debate “oops” in 2011 when he couldn’t remember the Energy Department no longer seems disqualifying: “It seems like the public has become much more tolerant of gaffes nowadays.”

Perry’s experience leading an energy production state is a plus, she wrote. But Trump may be looking for loyalty over rivalry.

Trump wrote on Twitter on Wednesday night: “I am the only one who knows who the finalists are!”

Perry knows this reality game from Dancing. At the Vegas debate, he joked when asked about the outcome: “They let me go at the appropriate time.”

Trump may just be teasing the next episode.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, bud@star-telegram.com, @BudKennedy. His column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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