Unlike Sean Spicer and Sarah Hauckabee Sanders, the usual suspects sent to the White House Press Room podium, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the former Texas governor, looked like he was having fun, at least. Perry, given the mic to promote the Trump administration's energy week, regaled the press corps for 40 minutes. It was a glimpse into an alternate universe where Perry, rather than Trump, captured the Republican electorate's imagination during the 2016 primaries.
The first question Perry received — the secretary called the question "astute," demonstrating off the bat that his briefing wasn't going to be all that contentious — dealt with the potential complications of expanding nuclear power in the United States. Perry said it was important to get America's best minds involved in nuclear energy again.
"One of the things we want to do at DOE is to make nuclear energy cool again," he said. "When I was younger in the ‘60s, a lot of kids wanted to go into the nuclear energy field. At my alma mater there were a lot of young boys and girls who wanted to be nuclear engineers."
Rick Perry is having the most fun of anybody who has ever stood at the Trump briefing podium by a factor of infinity. pic.twitter.com/u2gfDdbRyq— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) June 27, 2017
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Perry pointed to France — a country he called "a little bit different" for its refusal to import Texas beef — as an example on the nuclear front because 76 percent of its power comes from nuclear facilities.
"You know, they recognized us as a state back in the 1830s, so we actually have a really close, personal relationship with the French. We like them. We had an embassy in Paris. They had one in Austin; as a matter of fact, it’s still there, called the French Legation. Invite all of you to come and see it," Perry said. "But the French are a little different when it comes to some things. And one of those, I would find it really interesting — our French friends are very comfortable getting 76 percent, thereabouts, of their energy from nuclear, and I can assure you they’re very fond of getting it at the rate they’re getting it."
The former governor wasn't as comfortable discussing climate change, seeming to confuse GOP talking points on the issue by admitting that human activities affect the climate but insisting that the debate wasn't settled.
"Here’s what I believe — and I’m pretty much on the record, but I love getting the opportunity to talk about it again — the climate is changing. Man is having an impact on it," Perry said. "The people who say the science is settled, it’s done — if you don’t believe that you’re a skeptic, a Luddite. I don’t buy that. I don’t think there is — I mean, this is America. Have a conversation. Let’s come out of the shadows of hiding behind your political statements and let’s talk about it."