CNN Oct. 18, 2009. Don Lemon's softball interview with Alberto Gonzales painting him as a "legal trailblazer". After what Gonzo did to the Department of Justice during his term there, the words "legal" and "trailblazer" are hardly what come to mind for me.
Although Lemon does ask Gonzales about the accusations against him, he allows him to claim that "a lot of what happened towards the end, I would say 98 percent was political" and that he's been cleared of any wrong doing.
Having the DOJ give you cover by not going after the higher ups on torture or some right wing extemist Cheney fixer judge dismissing a civil suit is not the same thing as investigations confirming someone's innocence. Everyone from the Congress to the current AG's office has dropped the ball on following through on investigating Gonzales and now the man is on the television claiming they did and cleared him and Don Lemon allows it. Astounding.
LEMON: So right here on this program we're profiling Latinos who overcame obstacles and shattered stereotypes to make history. It's part of our series "Pioneros: Latino Firsts." Tonight, the first Latino to become a U.S. attorney general. Alberto Gonzales. I met up with him in his new role on the campus of Texas Tech University.
LEMON (voice-over): When last we saw Alberto Gonzales, he was wielding the power and influence that come with the title U.S. attorney general. Today he is in a new role on campus at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. A recruiter for minority and underrepresented students, and a visiting professor, teaching a course called Contemporary Issues in the Executive Branch.
Gonzales knows all about issues. He was pressured to resign after 2 1/2 years as George W. Bush's attorney general. Dogged by accusations he misused the Patriot Act to uncover private information on U.S. citizens, denied rights to prisoners held in U.S.-run detention camps and then lied to Congress about all of it.
(on camera): Is there something that you want people to know about that experience or what happened? Why you resigned?
ALBERTO GONZALES, FIRST LATINO U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think unfortunately because Washington can be political, a lot of what happened towards the end, I would say 98 percent was political. Quite frankly.
LEMON: Explain that. What do you mean?
GONZALES: Listen, you had members of Congress making allegations that I engage in perjury, criminal wrongdoing. And we now have these investigations that has been confirmed that none of that is true. But I think that for some people, it was an opportunity to perhaps embarrass the president by going after someone they perceived as close to the president.
Even to the end, President Bush fully supported you. How much did that help at all?
GONZALES: Well, of course, that makes a great deal of difference. I served at the pleasure of the president. I wouldn't want to serve him if he had questions about my abilities to serve effectively as the attorney general of the United States.
LEMON: Loyalty says that Gonzales, trumped all else for Bush insiders. A bond forged during the worst attack on the U.S. ever and at the time that Gonzales was serving as White House counsel.
GONZALES: It is like being in combat, being in a fox hole with someone. You have to depend on them. You have to trust them. On 9/11, Karen Hughes and I were standing outside the Oval Office when Marine One touched down that evening. And the president returning from Florida, after making a couple of detour stops. But I remember him, you know, getting out of Marine One and walking to the Oval Office and Karen and I saying something like, welcome home, Mr. President. Him kind of acknowledging us, just walking straight through into the Oval Office.
The Oval Office was being readied for an address the nation that night. So there was plywood on the floor and thinks like that. He walked straight through back to the back of his, to the study behind the Oval Office. And I guess it was me Karen, Condi Rice, Ari Fleischer and Andy Card, and the president. And for about a half-hour or so, we talked about what had happened that day. And we began talking about what we were going to do as a country to respond. So that's something that I'll remember for the rest of my life.
LEMON: Four years after 9/11, Gonzales became the first Hispanic U.S. attorney general with one clear mission.
GONZALES: The president made it clear, that was the priority for those of us working in the administration is to protect our country.
LEMON (on camera): And that's going to take a toll on anybody.
GONZALES: I think it was hard. It was hard on my family. Hard on my wife. And that was tough.
LEMON (voice-over): With his wife, Rebecca and his sons Jarod, Graham and Gabriel in mind, Gonzales said he is done with the drama of politics.
ANNOUNCER: Stands tall, touchdown Texas Tech.
LEMON: Texas Tech football games and travel are family affairs. They love exploring Texas where Gonzales grew up. The second of eight children to parents of Mexican descent. A religious mother, a construction working, hard drinking father.
GONZALES: He did have a drinking problem. One of the things that I learned from my father was responsibility. No matter how serious the drinking was for my father, he always get up and went to work. Because for him you it was important to provide for his family.
LEMON: Gonzales who does not drink learned discipline in the Air Force. Went to college on the G.I. bill and earned a degree in political science from rice University and later a law degree from Harvard. After returning to Texas and a short stint in private practice, he met Governor George W. Bush.
And things started to happen. Bush made him his general counsel and he served as Texas secretary of state before Bush appointed him to the Texas Supreme Court.
GONZALES: I would have to say that he was a mentor. What it is like to be a father, what it is like to be the head of a local party, what it's like to be the head of a state, the head of a country. There are a lot of lessons I think one can learn simply by being around. And watching and listening. So yes. I think he had a significant impact upon me.
LEMON: Gonzales said he has no regrets.
GONZALES: As a lawyer, I think about the fact that probably the three most prestigious, perhaps most challenging positions would be counselor to the president, attorney general of the United States, and Supreme Court justice. And I've had two of the three. So people question, or say, well, poor Al or anything like. Hey, I say don't feel sorry for me. I've had a great run. And I'm privileged.
LEMON: Alberto Gonzales, a Latino first.
LEMON: All right. Thank you so much, Alberto Gonzales. Very open during that interview. And I have to say this, Gonzales' appointment to Texas Tech - well his post there drew some protests from faculty and students, some 40 faculty signed a statement questioning Gonzales' ethics during his time as attorney general but he responded by saying, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
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