Alberto R. Gonzales

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Alberto Gonzales
480px-Alberto Gonzales - official DoJ photograph.jpg
80th Attorney General of the United States
From: February 3, 2005 - September 17, 2007
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
PredecessorJohn Ashcroft
SuccessorMichael Mukasey
Information
Party Republican
Religion Catholic

Alberto R. Gonzales (born August 4, 1955) was the 80th Attorney General of the United States, preceded by John Ashcroft and succeeded by Eric Holder. He is a graduate of Rice University, and a former member of Lovett College. Gonzales was one of the best students in his graduating class, considered one of the school's brightest and most intellectually capable students.

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Early Life

Alberto Gonzales was born in San Antonio, Texas, and raised in Humble, near Houston. He was the second of eight children born to Pablo and Maria Gonzales. His father, who died in 1982, was a construction worker. An honors student at MacArthur High School, Gonzales enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1973, for a four year term of enlistment, serving two years at Fort Yukon, Alaska and two years as a cadet at the United States Air Force Academy. Prior to beginning his third year at the academy, which would have caused him to incur a further service obligation, he transferred to Rice University (Houston, Texas), where he was a member of Lovett College and earned a bachelor's degree in political science in 1979. He then earned a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from Harvard Law School in 1982. He and his wife, Rebecca Turner Gonzales, have three sons.

Legal Career

Gonzales was an attorney in private practice from 1982 until 1994 with the Houston law firm Vinson and Elkins, where he became a partner. In 1994, he was named general counsel to then-Texas Governor George W. Bush, rising to become Secretary of State of Texas in 1997 and finally to be named to the Texas Supreme Court in 1999, both appointments made by Governor Bush. During this time Gonzales was very involved in charities and community service. He was a board director of the United Way of the Texas Gulf Coast from 1993 to 1994, and President of Leadership Houston during this same period. In 1994, Gonzales served as Chair of the Commission for District Decentralization of the Houston Independent School District, and as a member of the Committee on Undergraduate Admissions for Rice University. He was chosen as one of Five Outstanding Young Texans by the Texas Jaycees in 1994. He was a member of delegations sent by the American Council of Young Political Leaders to Mexico in 1996 and to the People's Republic of China in 1995. He received the Presidential Citation from the State Bar of Texas in 1997 for his dedication to addressing basic legal needs of the indigent. In 1999, he was named Latino Lawyer of the Year by the Hispanic National Bar Association. On November 10, 2004, it was announced that he would be nominated to replace United States Attorney General John Ashcroft for President Bush's second term. The nomination was approved with a 60-36 vote. He was sworn in on February 14, 2005.

Achievements

  • Led Project Safe Neighborhoods to help eliminate violence in inner cities.[1]
  • Was instrumental in passing the Military Commissions Act

Controversy

Alberto Gonzales was involved in a controversy over the firings of 8 United States attorneys. Detractors insisted that the attorneys were fired for political reasons, instead of performance-based reasons (a claim that no one in the White House has ever made, though some Justice Department officials initially made this claim in Congressional testimony).[2] Despite the fact that United States attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President of the United States and the firings were therefore legal, the liberally biased media insists on calling it a scandal. In fact, Alberto Gonzales "tempered the White House desire to replace U.S. Attorneys wholesale." [3]

Another controversy occurred while Gonzales was the White House Counsel to President George W. Bush. In March of 2004, President Bush's domestic surveillance program was nearing its expiration date and needed to be reauthorized. At the time, however, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft had been hospitalized in the intensive care unit with a serious case of pancreatitis[4]; his powers had been transferred to James Comey, his deputy. Moreover, several individuals within the Justice Department, including Comey and Jack Goldsmith (then the head of the Office of Legal Counsel), believed that the program had serious legal problems. After Comey and Goldsmith refused to reauthorize the program, White House Chief of Staff Andy Card tried to arrange a phone call between President Bush and Ashcroft to discuss the situation. Mrs. Ashcroft advised him (through a member of Ashcroft's security detail) that her husband would not accept the call. President Bush then ordered Gonzales and Card to go to the hospital to see Ashcroft in person. Both the President and Card spoke to Mrs. Ashcroft to inform her of the impending meeting and advise her that it involved a matter of national security. Comey and Goldsmith heard about the situation and rushed to the hospital to intercept Gonzales and Card. Comey and Goldsmith watched as Gonzales asked Ashcroft to sign the reauthorization. Ashcroft stated that he did not appreciate them coming to see him under such circumstances, that he had serious concerns about the program, and that in any case Comey was the attorney general at that moment[5]. Gonzales and Card then left[6]. Comey later stated, "I thought I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man."[7]

Trivia

  • Albert Gonzales was voted the Outstanding Young Lawyer of Texas in 1992.
  • His Secret Service nickname is "Elephant", a reference to his uncanny ability to memorize obscure parts of United States law.

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References

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