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How to Stump the Smartest Man in Obama’s Cabinet

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Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz Energy Department

Billed as “the smartest man in President Obama’s Cabinet,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz was a good sport during a Saturday appearance on the National Public Radio quiz show “Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!

Moniz, who has chaired the Physics Department at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, calmly took the ribbing for his erudition from motor-mouth host Peter Sagal and his comedian co-conspirators. But the jabs were mostly about his “California in the 1970s” long hair, which Moniz noted has been described as the “best hair in the Cabinet since 1794.” He wowed the panel by insisting that, though he’s not a “nerd,” he does get approached by strangers who are young scientists expressing their awe at his scientific achievements.

Moniz took the broadcast opportunity to educate the national audience by promoting the president’s climate change initiative, labeling solar as his “favorite energy source” and noting the Energy Department’s role since World War II (by predecessor agencies) in caring for the nation’s nuclear weapons.

Sagal noted that Moniz’s predecessor on Obama’s team, Steven Chu, also appeared on “Wait, Wait…” four years ago.

The current Energy secretary was then hit with three trivia questions related to the Sesame Street puppet character Bert, as in “Bert and Ernie.” Like Chu before him, he answered only one correctly.

Charles S. Clark joined Government Executive in the fall of 2009. He has been on staff at The Washington Post, Congressional Quarterly, National Journal, Time-Life Books, Tax Analysts, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and the National Center on Education and the Economy. He has written or edited online news, daily news stories, long features, wire copy, magazines, books and organizational media strategies.

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