This month marked former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' formal return to Texas, when he officially began his tenure as a visiting professor at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.
On Aug. 6, Gonzales launched his university career when he moved into a bare-walled office in the Tech president's wing of the school administration building. He will teach his first class -- "Contemporary Issues in the Executive Branch" -- on Aug. 27. When it comes to his students, all topics are open for discussion, he says, including his time as former President George W. Bush's White House counsel and as AG, as well as the controversies that arose as a result of his eight years in those jobs.
Gonzales was born in San Antonio. In 1995, then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush hired Gonzales, a former Vinson & Elkins transactional lawyer and a 1982 Harvard Law School graduate, to be general counsel at the Governor's Office. In 1997, Gov. Bush made Gonzales secretary of state, and a year later Bush appointed him to the Texas Supreme Court. In 2001, Gonzales left Austin to become President George W. Bush's White House counsel in Washington, D.C. Gonzales became U.S. attorney general in 2005, and he resigned that post in 2007.
See a video of an interview with Alberto Gonzales
Tech Chancellor Kent Hance says Gonzales will make a wonderful addition to the university. But his hiring has caused a stir. Some Tech faculty members have signed a petition objecting to Gonzales' employment.
"We talk about the expression of ideas. And some people just want one theme and one philosophy taught in college. And I've never been of the philosophy of limiting people who disagree with you," Hance says. If U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder "resigns tomorrow, I'll hire him too. We're in the idea business," Hance says.
Texas Lawyer senior reporter John Council interviewed Gonzales on Aug. 6 about a wide range of topics: the so-called "torture memo," his controversial visit with then-U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft in the hospital, his involvement in the firings of nine U.S. Attorneys and his future in Lubbock. The interview has been edited for style and length.
Texas Lawyer: You're going to teach a political science course. What are you going to talk about with the young minds at Texas Tech?
Alberto Gonzales: I'm going to talk a lot about how does the White House actually work, how does legislation ... really get passed, how does it work between the executive branch and the legislative branch. And how do you get ready for a Supreme Court nomination, how do you pick a nominee, how do you prepare that nominee, how do you get that nominee confirmed? We're going to look at issues obviously related to the war on terrorism and some of the big issues that this president still confronts, like what do you do with Guantanamo, what do you do about long-term detention. So those are all issues that we're going to be looking at. And maybe these are issues that, I have to say, will be covered in other courses by other professors around the country, but I dare say very few are going to have the same level of insight, the direct hands-on involvement that I can bring to the students.
TL: I imagine you're going to have a popular class.
Gonzales: It's small. It's limited to 15. And I wanted a very small class to really encourage some serious and candid discussion about these issues, and I felt that was only possible if we limited it. Obviously there was a great deal of interest in these subject matters. I've talked to some business folks about maybe doing one or two communitywide speeches ... about some of these issues that people are interested in hearing about.