Suppose we just continue on the present policy path. What happens to those 1.2 million jobs in that case? And the answer is: many of them show up anyway. Perry hypothesizes that the Obama administration will impose future regulations to inhibit the development of the gas-fracking industry in the US – and then counts as “new” jobs the jobs that would come by not imposing those as-yet-nonexistent regulations. Likewise he counts as “new” jobs the jobs that would come from approval of pipelines to Canadian oil sands. Yet those approvals are roaring ahead anyway.It's a nice catch, but I disagree with Frum's interpretation, which is that it shows Perry isn't a very serious candidate, which I think means Perry is either lazy or over his head.
I'd go in another direction: Perry is confronted with a tough problem, and is taking a sensible way out. The tough problem is that doing policy in the GOP nomination contest is almost impossible. What motivates Tea Partiers and other enthusiastic primary voters? A lot of it is mythical, such as the immanent Obamcrackdown on fracking seen here, or Obama's apology tour, or Obama's plans to seize everyone's guns, or all those IRS agents that Jon Huntsman was complaining about in last week's debate. Others are internally contradictory; good luck proposing a budget that eliminates the deficit, cuts taxes, and doesn't cut spending on the military or current Medicare or SS payments. Still others are massively unpopular general election positions; that part is normal in all presidential nomination contests, but particularly an issue this time around. And hanging over all of it is the possibility that something on the approved list today could be the mark of a RINO tomorrow (see: Mitt Romney, health care reform). Not to mention that there are a half dozen or so "candidates" who are prone to making up stuff intended to ingratiate themselves to the crazies (well, it's really mainly three -- Newt, Bachmann, Cain).
In that environment, calling for a tough stand against the mythical is an obvious and probably smart choice. Thus Mitt Romney's foreign policy, which appears to be entirely designed against opposition to mythical apologies, not to mention everyone's opposition to the mythical "Obamacare" version of ACA. And thus Rick Perry's energy plan.
One more thing: strawman attacks during the general election are normal, and for the most part (IMO) relatively unobjectionable. Strawman attacks on the other party are seriously unhealthy during the nomination fight, at least if they dominate to the extent that policy fights are all about who is best able to stop nonexistent plots. After all, nomination fights are when parties really have a chance to determine what they want to do. Republicans have some serious questions they could be fighting over, beginning with whether they want to return to George W. Bush's first term foreign policy, and what they actually believe should be done about the economy in the short and long term. If they don't deal with those things now, they're going to wind up (should they win) with someone in the White House who won't really be constrained by actual party preferences on the issues, beyond, you know, not reinstating the Fairness Doctrine.
It's not Rick Perry and Mitt Romney who aren't serious; it's the party they're trying to lead.
Back to the original point: nice catch!