When President Obama nominated MIT physicist Ernest Moniz to replace physicist Steven Chu as secretary of energy, he noted he was replacing Chu with “another brilliant scientist.”

But Moniz also already “knows his way around” the Energy Department, Obama said, a decided plus these days. Moniz had been associate director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and undersecretary of energy in the Bill Clinton administration in addition to being a member of Obama’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology.

He knows “almost more than any person on Earth” about the agency, one observer said.

In a chat with the Loop, he revealed, among other things, that it was soccer — he plays in a league — that truly helped prepare him for this job.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz loves soccer, fly fishing and Monty Python. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

Which Cabinet secretary would you most like to hang out with, and what would you do?

My wife, Naomi, and I enjoy spending as much time as possible in the mountains, hiking and fly fishing, so hanging out with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, an avid outdoors person, in the national parks, national forests and wilderness areas would be outstanding.

What’s your favorite non-work-related Web site/blog/

The Boston Globe sports page.

Fill in the blank: People would be surprised to know that I _____.

Have played for a quarter-century in the Over-the-Hill Soccer League in the Boston area, naturally progressing to the over-60 division, where “hope triumphs over experience.” Playing defense all these years proved to be good preparation for some of my Department of Energy responsibilities!

What’s your dream job (other than your current gig)?

The job I had before as MIT professor, especially working with students on clean-energy technology and policy. Second choice: Red Sox play-by-play announcer.

What motivated you to go into public service?

When I started my academic career, MIT President Jerry Wiesner, who had been science adviser to President Kennedy, and several senior physics colleagues made it clear through both words and actions that opportunities for public service were to be pursued as a professional and societal responsibility and as a way to enrich the relationship with students.

Favorite TV show?

My all-time favorite is “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”

Which character from that show do you most identify with?

Taking a step from Monty Python TV to movies, the Black Knight in “The Holy Grail”: “It’s just a flesh wound.”

What subject, other than your work, do you know most about?

Physics, my professional discipline. By now, fly fishing should be up there as well, but nature always seems to point out how much more there is to learn.

Fill in the blank: I’m scared of _____.

The risks posed by climate change and by nuclear weapons in the wrong hands. Addressing these challenges is a big part of the DOE’s work and calls for continued American leadership and enhanced international cooperation for a long time.

What’s one word you wish people would use to describe you?


You can draft one person in the private sector to come work for the federal government. Who would it be, and what would you have them do?

It takes a team, and I’d seek business, military and religious leaders who would together promote the economic, security and environmental imperatives for dealing with climate change.

Change to spare

Fifth-year fatigue may be setting in at the White House. New — or semi-new — folks are settling in, or will be soon. A partial list: John Podesta as counselor, Phil Schiliro to advise on health care, Jeff Zients to replace Gene Sperling as head of the National Economic Council, and newly arrived deputy communications director Katie Beirne Fallon to replace legislative director Miguel Rodriguez.

Cabinet Secretary Danielle Gray is also said to be looking to move on.

White House Counsel Kathy Ruemmler announced her departure a while back, but after speaking with the president, she decided to stay until spring. We’re hearing the White House is having trouble getting someone to replace Ruemmler. She’s been with Obama since the beginning of the presidency and has become a trusted member of the top team, so it’s not going to be easy. And Monday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon that the National Security Agency’s sweeping up of Americans’ phone records was unconstitutional might make things even harder.

The search apparently is on for someone who’s a legal powerhouse with some substantial private practice and political or legislative experience. Sounds as if they want some wise man, or woman, along the lines of the late former Carter and Clinton White House counsel Lloyd Cutler, or maybe former House member, appellate judge and Clinton White House counsel Abner Mikva.

Meanwhile, Jeanne Lambrew, a leading player in the White House Obamacare rollout fiasco, is also looking to leave. We’re told she’s been planning to do so for quite a while. But some folks are saying she should stay on, or else it will appear that she’s leaving because of the Obamacare mess.

Uh, well . . .

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.