Well, another day, another Trump administration official bites the dust. This time it was Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin who says he was fired because he opposed privatizing VA health care. “As I prepare to leave government, I am struck by a recurring thought,” he wrote in a New York Times op-ed published online shortly after midnight. “It should not be this hard to serve your country.”
So in March alone we’ve seen the departures of Shulkin, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, economic adviser Gary Cohn and national security adviser H.R. McMaster.
You know things must be bad when a serial screw-up artist like Energy Secretary Rick Perry has pretty much been out of the news. I realize this is a somewhat subjective yardstick but I was thinking about it because Perry’s been laying so low that I’d forgotten he was in the cabinet, only remembering when I saw him in a recent news clip about a bland visit he’d made to the Berkeley Lab.
This is a man who flamed out as a presidential candidate in 2012 and 2016, in two of the worst consecutive campaigns of recent times. “In an era when there’s exponentially more money in politics than we’ve ever seen before, Perry is the candidate who is exponentially more willing than we’ve ever seen before to whore himself out for that money,” Matt Taibbi wrote during the first campaign. “On the human level he is a nonpersonality, an almost perfect cipher – a man whose only discernible passion is his extreme willingness to be whatever someone will pay him to be, or vote for him to be.”
Having served more than a decade as governor of Texas, Perry was a favorite to win the GOP primaries in 2012. But he swiftly plummeted in the polls and withdrew after a campaign during which he traced the American Revolution to the 16th century, was outperformed at the debates even by hacks like Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann, spoke about the eight-member Texas Supreme Court (there are nine members) and famously was unable to remember at one debate the name of the three federal agencies he planned to shudder if he was elected president. (He got the first two but blanked on the Energy Department, his current home.)
Perry prepped and studied for two years before launching his 2016 bid. He withdrew about 100 days later, at which time he was polling a shade north of zero percent.
As Trump’s energy secretary, Perry has been as predictably pro-industry as Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. (Just today it was reported that Pruitt has been sharing a house with an energy lobbyist.) “How terrible was Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposed bailout for the coal industry?” the San Antonio Express-News asked earlier this year. “So terrible the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission unanimously rejected it. No small feat since the five-member commission includes four appointees from President Donald Trump, three of them Republicans.”
Only in Trump’s Washington could Rick Perry have become relatively invisible and it’s surely only a matter of time before he returns to campaign form.