Gonzales, Alberto R.

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A corporate lawyer for much of his career, Alberto R. Gonzales became George Bush's general counsel when Bush served as governor of Texas. When Bush became President of the United States in 2000, he tapped Gonzales to serve once again as the first Hispanic American to be named general counsel to the White House. In 2005, Bush chose Gonzales to succeed John Ashcroft as his attorney general, another first. Gonzales, whose father grew up as a migrant farm worker, has served on the Texas Supreme Court and has been mentioned as a possible nominee to replace U.S. Supreme Court justices who may be on the verge of retiring.

Born in San Antonio, Texas, Gonzales grew up in Houston. Neither of his parents finished elementary school, and Gonzales's father died from a work accident in 1982. After graduating from high school, Gonzales joined the U.S. Air Force. While he was stationed in Alaska, two Air Force Academy graduates told him he should seek an appointment to the Academy. Gonzales entered the Academy, but soon found out that his vision was no longer good enough to become a pilot. As a result, he turned his attention to a career in law and applied to Rice University, where he graduated in 1979. Gonzales was the first in his family to attend college, but he didn't stop there. Upon graduation, he went on to Harvard Law School. He then joined the firm of Vinson & Elkins, LLP and practiced general corporate business law with the firm for the next thirteen years.

In 1990, he gained the attention of Bush's father, then President George Bush, but refused a job offer at the White House to remain in private practice and focus on making partner at the law firm. However, when the younger Bush offered him the opportunity to be legal counsel for the governor five years later, Gonzales accepted. Over the next five years, Bush showed strong support for Gonzales, eventually appointing him to Texas secretary of state and then a justice on the Texas Supreme Court. There was little doubt that Gonzales had become part of Bush's innermost circle when Bush called on Gonzales again, in 2000, to serve as the White House counsel. Traditionally, the counsel to the White House usually garners little media attention unless there is a scandal. As described by Daniel Klaidman and Tamara Lipper in Newsweek, "the president's lawyer typically offers discreet advice on legislation and helps the White House staff steer clear of ethical land mines."

Gonzales came to public attention with his efforts to prevent details of Vice President Dick Cheney's energy commission from being revealed. More notoriously, his memo on the torture of prisoners taken in the war on terror, which described the Geneva Conventions as "quiant" and "obsolete" raised strong opposition from the left, who felt that such comments were in part responsible for the prisoner abuse cases in Iraq. Gonzales also cleared a Justice Department memo that stated that the President was not bound by laws against torture when incarcerating people described as "enemy combatants."

Alberto R. Gonzales

1955      Born in San Antonio, Texas

1979      Graduated Rice University

1995      Named legal counsel for Texas Governor George W. Bush

2000      Named White House counsel

2005      Confirmed as U.S. Attorney General

After the resignation of John Ashcroft following Bush's 2004 election victory, Bush nominated Gonzales in November 2004 to take the position of attorney general. Senate Democrats on the Judiciary Committee unanimously voted against his nomination, but his nomination was confirmed after a 60-36 vote in the full Senate. Gonzales was seen as a more moderate appointment than Ashcroft, as Gonzales was not opposed to affirmative action or abortion, two subjects of particular Republican objection.

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