Alberto Gonzales was probably one of the most controversial U.S. attorneys general in history and left in a swirl of controversy about fired federal prosecutors and his role in authorizing harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects.After keeping a relatively a low profile since resigning in the summer of 2007, he has now begun his stint as a visiting professor at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, where he will teach a course entitled “Contemporary Issues in the Executive Branch” that will encompass crafting legislation and shepherding a Supreme Court nominee through the Senate He sat down with Texas Lawyer for one of the most wide-ranging interviews he has given since leaving office in which he offers insights into many of the controversies.On the issue of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques authorized by the Bush Justice Department — which are in the spotlight now as the new Obama administration is examining whether they broke the law — Gonzales said it was natural that such guidance is revised over time.”What the lawyers tried to do (during the Bush years) was to define, to give boundaries to what the statute allowed,” Gonzales said. “When I was in the administration I encouraged lawyers to continually look at our legal position and to get comfortable if we were in fact on solid ground. And if people wanted to continue to revise, I think that was the appropriate role for lawyers.”As White House counsel, Gonzales made a controversial visit to the hospital bed of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to push for approval of a secret surveillance program. Gonzales said he would discuss the incident in greater detail in his forthcoming book but that he went at President George W. Bush’s behest.”The reason we went to General Ashcroft is because he is the one who had been approving this program and these activities for a number of years. And he had been the Senate-confirmed attorney general, and as far as the president was concerned, that’s the person he wanted us to talk to,” Gonzales said.However, at the time, the deputy attorney general, James Comey, was in charge (and he was also confirmed by the U.S. Senate) while Ashcroft recovered from surgery.Gonzales in the interview also again strenuously defended his role in the firing of several federal prosecutors and said he had been cleared of wrongdoing by the inspector general.One final interesting tidbit from the interview is a rather stark contrast between Gonzales and Vice President Dick Cheney over who is chief U.S. law enforcement officer.In a Fox News interview on Sunday, while discussing the Obama administration’s decision to appoint a special prosecutor to examine whether there was any wrongdoing in the harsh interrogations, Cheney said the president is the chief law enforcement officer in the administration. But Gonzales said the attorney general holds that title and must fulfill that obligation.The Justice Department’s website offers the historical support for Gonzales’ position, here.Click here for more Reuters political coverage.- Photo credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
Tales from the Trail
Not a bad resume for a former first daughter .
Former President George W. Bush’s daughter Jenna Hager, a Baltimore teacher, is joining NBC’s “Today” crew as a correspondent, the show’s executive producer Jim Bell told AP on Sunday.
The nation’s first Homeland Security secretary is airing some dirty laundry from the Bush administration: He says he was pushed to raise the terror alert level on the eve of the 2004 presidential election.
How would you spend the dog days of summer, if you were a former vice president? If you were Dick Cheney, you would be ensconced in your new office above the garage in McLean, Virginia (just down the road from the CIA!), writing your memoir of the administration of George W. Bush. But would you tell all?
from Left field:
It's one thing they can agree on... baseball.
Major League Baseball is bringing all five living U.S. presidents together at next week's 80th All-Star Game.
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - If you worried U.S. President Barack Obama might not handle diplomacy with the energy-rich Saudi rulers as deftly as Texas oilman George W. Bush, fear no longer.
No sooner had Obama landed in Riyadh for a day of meetings with King Abdullah than he was sporting a big gold medal around his neck — the King Abdul Aziz Order of Merit.
It’s the country’s highest honor — named for the founder of the modern Saudi state.
Bush, too, was awarded one on his first visit to the kingdom. It just took the former president seven years — till January 2008 — to visit Saudi Arabia.
Obama managed to get his in under five months, at only his second meeting with the king.
During the first meeting — in London — the U.S. leader famously greeted the Saudi monarch with something that looked suspiciously like a bow but was hard to tell exactly because a guy was standing in the way.
Protocol-wise, heads of state do not generally bow by way of greeting. But then Michelle Obama was busy patting Queen Elizabeth on the back, so protocol was kind of out the window anyway.
There were other signs on Wednesday that the U.S. and Saudi leaders were getting along well.
The White House says Obama has been consulting with Abdullah regularly by phone about the speech to the Islamic world that he will give from Cairo on Thursday.
Their meeting at King Abdullah’s sprawling farm outside Riyadh was scheduled to go for about two hours. Instead it lasted about three.
For more Reuters political news, please click here.
If you want to know if there’s a difference between working for President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush, ask the man who’s worked for both: Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Gates faced that question on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.