Alberto Gonzales New Attorney General
President Bush has chosen White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, a Texas confidant and one of the most prominent Hispanics in the administration, to succeed Attorney General John Ashcroft, sources close to the White House said Wednesday.
Gonzales, 49, has long been rumored as a leading candidate for a Supreme Court vacancy if one develops. Speculation increased after Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist announced he has thyroid cancer. Gonzales’ career has been linked with Bush for at least a decade, serving as general counsel when Bush was governor of Texas, and then as secretary of state and as a justice on the Texas Supreme Court.
Not exciting in the way that Rudi Guiliani–or even Joe Lieberman–would have been. But a perfectly decent choice. Although he’s not without controversy, he’ll be a breath of fresh air following Ashcroft.
Gonzalez will carry the label “the first Hispanic Attorney General,” although one hopes we’ve finally moved beyond the point where such distinctions matter. We’ve had women and minorities in enough key positions for long enough now that these “milestones” are more insulting than honorific.
Update: It’s official.
President Bush today nominated his White House counsel and trusted confidant, Alberto R. Gonzales, to be his new attorney general, filling the vacancy left by the retirement of John D. Ashcroft. Gonzales, 49, a native of San Antonio, Tex., who served under Bush when he was Texas governor, would be the first Hispanic to head the U.S. Justice Department if, as expected, he is confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate. “He always gives me his frank opinion,” Bush said at the White House in announcing the nomination. “He is a calm and steady voice in times of crisis.” Bush said his nominee would continue what he said was the Justice Department’s recent progress in fighting crime, waging the war on terrorism on the U.S. domestic front and enforcing civil rights laws. He also praised the outgoing attorney general, saying that “the nation is safer and more just today because John Ashcroft has served our country so well.”
In brief remarks after Bush introduced him, Gonzales said, “The American people expect and deserve a Department of Justice guided by the rule of law.” Within the Hispanic community, he said, there are shared hopes and prayers for the opportunity to succeed and the chance to prove oneself. “Mr. President, thank you for that chance,” Gonzales said.
Hispanics greeted the nomination with a mixture of pride over its historic significance and concern about the direction of the Bush Justice Department. Rep. JosÃƒ© E. Serrano (D-N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the appropriations subcommittee that funds the Justice Department, said in a statement that it was “tremendously exciting to see one of our own nominated for so important a position.” But he said many questions “remain to be answered about both Gonzales’s and the Bush administration’s commitment to protecting our civil liberties and civil rights.” He said the nominee’s record raises concerns that “his Justice Department might continue Ashcroft’s appalling approach to civil liberties.”
Who Is Alberto Gonzales? (ABC News)
Alberto R. Gonzales, the second of eight children, grew up in a two-bedroom house in Houston, and rose to become one of President Bush’s closest advisers, who has followed him from the Texas statehouse to the White House. He is President Bush’s choice to succeed John Ashcroft as attorney general. If confirmed, he would become the first Hispanic attorney general. Gonzales served in Bush’s administration when the president was governor of Texas, and was named White House counsel in January 2001. His name has often been put forward as a likely Supreme Court nominee, if there is an opening during Bush’s time in office.
Gonzales, 49, was born in San Antonio and attended public schools in Texas. He served in the Air Force from 1973 to 1975, then attended the U.S. Air Force Academy from 1975 to 1977. After his military service, he attended Rice University, graduating in 1979, and received his law degree from Harvard University Law School in 1982.
In private practice, Gonzales joined the law firm of Vinson & Elkins in Houston in 1982, and eventually was named a partner in the firm. As governor, Bush brought Gonzales into his administration in 1994 as a senior adviser to the governor, chief elections officer, and the governor’s lead liaison on Mexican and border issues. Gonzales was named Texas’ secretary of state in December 1997 and served until January 1999, when he was appointed to the Texas Supreme Court. He was a justice until January 2001, when Bush invited him to join his administration in Washington.