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Rick Perry redux: Heading back to Texas and into the headlines

Jonathan Tilove, Austin American-Statesman on

Published in News & Features

AUSTIN, Texas -- On Nov. 21, 2016, Rick Perry met with President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower to talk about joining his Cabinet. The next day, Perry appeared on the season finale of "Dancing with the Stars."

It was a return visit by Perry, who had been voted off the show early in the season after his cha-cha to "God Blessed Texas," quickstep to the "Green Acres" theme and staccato pasodoble in full matador garb -- "Rick Perry playing the part of the fourth Amigo," New York Magazine reported -- failed to impress.

But if the former Aggie yell leader's moves were more antic than artful, his dancing with the stars proved an effective audition to serve in the administration of America's first reality star president. It was all so amply there -- Perry's gameness, guile and gusto.

In mid-December 2016, Trump asked Perry to join his Cabinet, albeit in what amounted to both smart politics and an epic troll, as secretary of energy. At a November 2011 Republican presidential debate that sealed his demise as a once commanding candidate, Perry had declared there are "three agencies of government when I get there that are gone: commerce, education and the uh ... what's the third one there? Let's see. The third one. I can't ... oops." It was energy.

Three years later, his resignation as secretary of energy effective Sunday, Perry is waltzing back into Texas amid an unlikely crescendo of national coverage. At a time when Perry, who will turn 70 in March, might be expected to exit stage right, he finds himself in the thick of the action -- one of the "three amigos" of administration officials at the center of what appears likely to be only the third impeachment of a president in American history, a player with a potentially lucrative hand to play at the crossroads of American and international energy, and a born-again believer in Trump ready, willing and able to evangelize for the president in a style and language that no other mainstream Republican politician can rival.

The man who in the throes of his own short-lived second presidential run described Trumpism in July 2015 as "a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition" now counsels Trump that he is indeed "the chosen one."

 

"This whole evolution has surprised me," said University of Texas political scientist Daron Shaw, co-director of the Fox News Poll. "It's a very odd transformation."

For most of his tenure as energy secretary, Perry got credit for staying out of the headlines.

"There were times I had forgotten he was in the administration, and for a guy who was the longest-serving governor in Texas history and one of the longest-serving governors in American history, I didn't know what his place in Texas politics and national politics was about a month and a half ago," Shaw said.

"But now, all of a sudden, I think he's particularly relevant in Texas because of the sector he's operating in (energy), and I actually think he's significant nationally," Shaw said.

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