tv True Faith and Allegiance CSPAN November 5, 2016 11:00am-11:51am EDT
administrations he served as the pulitzer prize-winning lawrence wright. for a complete schedule of today's events you can visit the website at booktv.org and follow us on twitter and ends the gram at booktv and facebook.com/booktv. we will be posting pictures and videos that you can watch exclusive videos on facebook. beginning now we kick off the festival with former attorney general alberto gonzales, his book "true faith and allegiance a story of service and sacrifice" this is booktv live coverage of the texas book festival. [inaudible conversations] hello.
welcome to the 21st annual texas book festival. thank you for coming out today in support of our authors, the festival and celebrating great literature. as you may know the book festival is a nonprofit organization that works to strengthen literacy by a wording grants and funding nationally recognized authors and illustrators in the title i schools and donating books to those students. by being here today, you are funding these important initiatives. thank you very much. please silence your cell phones, there is no flash photography allowed. the authors will be signing books after the session and books will be available in the tent. my name is clay johnson and i
will be the moderator of the session today. we are here to hear from alberto gonzales, the author of this new book "true faith and allegiance a story of service and sacrifi sacrifice." he served as attorney general, the white house senior counsel to the president, a member of the texas supreme court and secretary of state of the state ostateof texas. i've worked with him in austin and washington, d.c. and we both agreed it was such an honor and a privilege and hard work to work at the highest level of government in texas and washington, d.c.. i thought i knew everything that had happened with the governor president bush was reading the
book made me realize there is a depth and complexity i didn't know at all. i found the book inspiring and it was about the decisions that were made, how they were made and why they were made, and it's also my opinion a wonderful book becoming a supreme court justice, the attorney general of the united states coming from the background he did in houston and hold time and time again only happens in america and the form of government that we have only exists in america. it's a wonderful read that i am a little biased because i've known him a long time and i've worked with president bush also. let's get on with the discussion of alberto gonzales.
what's your story. [laughter] with me begin by thanking you for hosting us for this visit. we are delighted to be back in austin and we have such wonderful memories and we are delighted to see so many old friends and we are grateful that you are here this morning to participate in this discussion. i really have lived the american dream and as you've read my book wilyou will get a better appreciation of that. i know there are people in the audience, hundreds of thousands who've lived a similar story. i was one of eight children growing up in a small two bedroom house, didn'committed ie telephon, didn't have atelephonr in high school and from there,
to be the son of a father the second grade education and mother who had a sixth-grade education but from the air going into the air force, serving as a veteran and going to the air force academy and then harvard law school and then i met a guy named george w. bush and he gave me several opportunities that clay has mentioned. but this journey of mine has been tremendous and i hope to help others realize what is possible in america. i'm often asked what's it like to work in the white house. what's it like to have walk-in privileges into the oval office and stand in front of the same desk used by franklin roosevelt during world war ii when he worked with winston churchill, the same desk used by jfk, the same desk used by ronald reagan.
what is it like to stand in front of the desk and advise the president whpresident who he sht to the supreme court, was it like to stand on the evening of the porch 9/11 and watch as marine one brings president bush back at the end of the day. what is it like to be involved in discussions of the situation room on the most controversial issues as an american citizen there was no greater privilege and i can't imagine a greater thrill than being there for the birth of a child to served in that capacity. at the white house is the most recognizable 18 acres in the world and people come from all over the world to catch a glimpse. why is it so important and special, because the most powerful person in the world is making decisions every day. myself, clay, so many other dedicated americans have a privilege to serve in the white house and with this president george w. bush.
>> there were so many things covered as i said earlier in÷÷÷÷ such detail. talk about the many things revealed in detail than i ever knew about. talk about the biggest revelations in your mind that were written about and addressed in the book they would find new insights and understanding abo about. within a week after 9/11, president bush addressed a joint session of congress. there was a great uncertainty that we all remember and a time of unity and pride. justice thomas came up to them and said right hole in the
saddle. and from my perspective he did just that in the weeks, months and years following the standing tall for the united states. every time the president addresses the nation it is a pretty big deal. as you know every time that members of the cabinet and the leadership together, one person has to stay away and that is the designated survivor or a part of the plan so if there's a catastrophe and everyone is killed, someone is alive to serve as president of the united states. in 2007 i was advised before the state of the union, at that time the attorney general, that i would be the designated survivor and i was given a couple options about what i could do and the choice i made required me to spend an evening on an airplane and i remember arriving at andrews air force base and they are too greasy there were thick binders and classified
procedures to advise me if the unthinkable happened. as we took off i received a number of classified briefings and then i settled in to watch the state of the union and as he spoke it hit me the magnitude of the moment and i advised president george w. bush so i had some pretty big moments before but sitting there on that airplane it suddenly hit me what would happen if as i said the unthinkable happened. so the president concludes his speech and leaves the capital and we are ordered to return back to andrews air force base. my duty now it is probably the closest i've ever been to being your president of the united states. [laughter] one other story, from the transition of the presidency, from the time i served as white
house counsel he told me i want to be ready for supreme court vacancies. so we began working with the department of justice in developing a short list of candidates. it was widely speculated in the media and in the community that president bush wanted to appoint the first hispanic to the supreme court and because of my relationship with george w. bush and the positions i held having served as the justic justice one supreme court there was speculation president bush would appoint me to the supreme court, so we prepared for a vacancy and the story continued to percolate that no vacancy occurred. come the end of the first term, he nominates me an the bank cond an event on july 1, we get the word, i get a call and she calls me to say we have a vacancy. chief justice rehnquist has
cancer, we monitored the situation and expected we were preparing for a vacancy. so i get to the white house and there i am met by a small group of individuals to make final recommendations about who he would appoint to the supreme court. that would be the vice president, the chief of staff, the council, mysel council, mysy general and karl rove. so i arrive at the oval office and everyone is there except for andy who's been traveling but he is on the phone over teleconference and we talk about how we are going to prepare to roll out this announcement and help the president makes a decision and we talked about half an hour and we all get up to leave it president bush says will you stay behind. so i'm in the office with the vice president and the president and before i can even sit down president bush says i'm not
going to put you on the court. you're doing a great job as the justice. i need to keep you at the department of justice. so my immediate response was of course i was disappointed. it would have been an honor to be the first hispanic on the supreme court but my response was fairly simple which was u. owe me nothing, i owe you everything. i'm grateful for the appointment of the attorney general and i look forward to getting your nominee confirmed. i left and i remember that day the story increased about me possibly going on the court. becky and i met for dinner that evening and i said i've got something to tell you. the first thing i said was i'm not going on the supreme court and in a sense there was somewhat of a relief. to leave washington, d.c. hopefully to come back to texas and it freed me up to do my job as attorney general, not having thathe pressure of possibly beig the nominee.
but then i gave her the second bit of news and i said tomorrow i'm going to iraq. she said what and of course we minimized the number of people that know about the kind of travel because of security reasons. i think she probably felt better and safer. [laughter] but i think that history will look back at the appointment of john roberts and samuel alito and conclude the decisions. >> you have read different reviews of the boat and there is a lot of candor about everything in the book and you talk in a couple of cases that you know your job isn't a game of perfect but if you had to do it all over again, there's a couple things you would probably do differently.
why don't you talk about in the sense -- >> i'm often asked if i have any regrets in things i would do differently. you need to appreciate how hard these jobs are and people at the highest levels are going to make mistakes as these are the most difficult decisions you could possibly imagine. it would be great to be able to change the decisions and wouldn't life be great if we had do overs. i was back and we gave recommendations about the authority and commander of chief dealing with american citizens in the war on terror and the supreme court issued decisions that said the president's authority as commander in chief doesn't extend that far. obviously we would provide different advice to the president so he wasn't take certain kinds of actions. i'm not generally in the habit of categorizing or listing the
things we would do over. very quickly one thing i once wrote a memo certainly as a draft talking about the implications of the geneva convention and i happened to mention that the same sentence to provisions of the geneva conventions were claimed and i wasn't talking about the purpose, but simply the provisions in the geneva convention that say prisoners of war, yes provided an athletic uniforms and access to scientific instruments and give them a monthly allowance, stuff the american people wouldn't stand for those kind of privilege is being given t to tr purpose just killed 2,000 americans that any event, if god -- it was leaked and they thought i was being critical in the geneva convention which nothing further could have been from the truth and the lesson i learned is to minimize the amount of information you put in writing be careful about your
e-mails and as we now know today that is a shame because it is hard for historians to come back after the fact and develop an accurate history of the decisions that are made and the reasons for that decision. >> what prompted you to write the book and then how did you write the book, i tried to write a book and decided i was not capable. >> i decided to write the book because of concerns on some of the rhetoric and the decisions made. what i try to do is give the background and details and decisions on the application of the geneva convention and why did we choose guantánamo bay. what about the enhanced interrogation technique.
so there were a lot of stories and conflicting ideas and opinions about these things and i just thought it would be important to set the record straight from the perspective of one of the lawyers involved in the key recommendations. the other reason i wrote the book if i wanted my son to know what their dad. and why. that was important for me as an individual and in terms of the process of writing it i began after i left office so many years ago in 2007 and started writing handwritten chapters. i wrote the entire book handwritten. i would ask my wife from time to time to type it up and eventually we may have had five
or six chapters but i wasn't making much progress so it sat there. it was hard in terms of what to include and what not to include. by the time i got to tennessee two years ago or so, i met an individual who then involved in writing and code writing over 70 or 80 bucks and he lived just down the road from me. we got together and he said i can help you finish your story. with his help i was finally able to get the work completed. for those of you that haven't written a book even if it's something you think you know a lot about, it is incredibly hard and it takes a great deal of patience and courage to go back through all of the controversial things i went through to relive that was difficult for me but anyway also very prosodic to
talk about it. it was hard, but i am so glad that i did it, but i am so glad that it's over. >> there is so much detailed. long quote from said blog. i often was the only full year in the room. every council in the room if the president is going to say something i want to make sure it is accurate so that someone wouldn't say something he didn't say. and with others when you're sitting in these meetings someone may say something provocative or funny and it sticks with you and later on i might write it down. often times i wrote notes on my calendar to remind me about certain incidents and
conversations but i'm very comfortable if i put quotes in the book, my perspective and my recollection others might have different recollections and perspectives. the other thing that complicated the writing of the book it took about two months because we talk about a lot of sensitive information. there may be some parts that are not as clear to you as you would expect and the government asked me or told me not to say things in the same way so in order to accommodate their desires, changes were made in the book and that complicated the editing process and publication schedu
schedule. >> does anyone else have a question they would like to ask, we have a card. talk about your family, your mother. i'm fascinated by that. and your mother watching you and how many siblings? eight children total growing up. talk about that. >> my mom is a typical hispanic mother of a strong catholic in her face, disciplinary and. she ruled the household and still alive today, she's 84 and lives in the house my dad built and i grew up in. i told a story about my mom, my dad died in my last semester in law school and my mom came to
visit me when i was still working in the white house and we did with all the tourists do. i took her to the monuments and museums but i also took her to the oval office. i wanted to show this little woman about what i had accomplished because of her sacrifices and the sacrifices of my father. when i was a boy we had a daily ritual but i'm sure many of you know. i wanted to have breakfast with my dad before he went to work so my mom would wake me up so i could have breakfast and we always had the same thing, eggs and tortillas. my mom would always make the same lunch, beans and tortillas and this was our daily ritual but anyway, fast forward to dc. i took my mom to the oval office and then on her last day of the visit she was making breakfast for me just what she'd done like every day for my dad that i
wasn't wearing blue jeans and a hard hat going to construction like my father. i had my suit on, i was going to work at the white house to advise the most powerful person in the world. think about the wonder that must have filled her heart, she is to the coffin as a younger girl to the oval office, that's the american story and god's grace when i look back on my life. the author speaking after you is talking about immigration and this has been a topic of conversation to put it mildly in this presidential race. talk about immigration policy. you've written a book on that. >> probably sold two copies i think my wife and my mom. [laughter]
but anyway, listen, i may hispanic and former officer with this tension that exists in the politics of immigration an immif that is we are a nation of immigrants but also a nation of law. so we have to accommodate these two principles that make america unique. in this book i do talk about the things that i would urge the congress to consider. i do believe that we need comprehensive immigration reform, one that is permanent but only the president can give us and that has more security and workplace enforcement and recognizes we are a nation of immigrants, we are compassionate and there have to be exceptions for the circumstances of family relations and situations. what do we do about the people that are brought here by children, what kind of opportunities to the bring them. these are all complicated issues and i get it.
everyone who cares about this isn't going to get everything they want in any kind of immigration bill. everyone has to compromise in order to get something done because in the end become so politicized. i know you will hear a lot more about immigration from other speakers and i think it's an important topic and i would like to see the candidates speak more about it. hopefully it's something where we will make some progress because a good immigration policy is going to help our economy and also help secure our borders. >> let me give you some of the questions we've gotten from people in the audience. did president bush reviewed the book before it was published? >> before the event, one of our son spend some time with him and
the book was getting ready to come out and we asked him do you want to read this book and he said no. [laughter] that could be for two reasons. [laughter] the first is he trusts me. the second he's been out of office for a while in the office already been written about the bush presidency so he probably thought what else can be said about me. you would have to ask him quite frankly. >> your book if titled true faith and allegiance. allegiance. can you speak about your faith and how it impacted your public-service? >> these jobs are so difficult in connection with organizations on execution and sending young
men and women into battle. i always believe you need to have faith in a higher power and decisions that are bigger than yourself and in these positions often times they are much bigger than yourself and so for that reason, when i look at someone who could be president or wants to be, someone who believes in god and the power of prayer is important. for me, praying about decisions i had to make and recommendations i would have to make was very important. president bush is actually fairly private in terms of prayer and things like that and there were times in difficult moments when he would simply say i've got to go pray about this. again i think it's important to have people of faith in making some of these very difficult decisions.
>> this is a question from me. >> and i do in the book talk about those difficult moments and the trying times when i became attorney general. i get no pleasure seeing attacks upon the previous attorney general because i know how hard those jobs can be. it seems like the whole world is against you and you have to have confidence in ourselves but also faith that you are doing the right thing. >> what do you think will be the most new news part of the book that's been dealt with least of all by other reporters that you think will add to the clarity of the book. >> you may be surprised how hard we worked to get it right.
i've heard some criticism. president bush wanted to make sure we got a great because we were dealing with a new kind of enemy and a new kind of conflict and often times there was nothing to rely on, no precedent. i spent some time going into detail about all the issues that we dealt with. we considered certain options. we do away with certain options. hopefully people will see because i do spend some time talking about how hard we worked to get it right. do we always get it right, no. the supreme court told us when we didn't, but we worked very hard to get it right. >> governor bush had a flat line management style while he was in the governor's office. how did that management style transfer to the washington
culture? >> after governor bush was elected, i came to austin and have my first substantive conversation with governor bush. the reason for the meeting was for me to get a better idea of him and for him a better idea of me. he talked about the style of management and drew a big ask for the governor and he said this is for the chief of staff. all of you are my senior staff and you will have direct access to me. that was important for me who had never been in government before. when we get to washington, there were certain individuals who had that same kind of access. soon he wasn't in a meeting and if i needed to see the president i got to see the president. president. there's a saying if you need to see the president, you get to see the president.
there would be afternoons i would come to the governor's office and sat down on the couch and we would talk about policy, politics and what else, baseball. you don't do that with the president of the united states. those moments are so special. i've often heard president bush say the presidency is about decision-making. if you can't meet a decision you can't be president. you can't worry about being criticized for making the wrong decision. you have to make a decision and move on because the next one is waiting outside of the oval office door. the times i was most often see the president for seven to 730. he was a morning person and i was a morning person. i could go down to the
second-floor office down to the oval office and talk to the president about issues that i need his guidance in terms of where he wanted to go. >> you talked about your mother's love for your siblings and you and probably pondered if you cause trends from back in the day before you became secretary of state, before you became its justice and what is there response of the kind of conversations you have for me for you were a senior official here. >> i'd like to thini like to the same guy from texas where i grew up, and i respect the accomplishments of all of my friends and i know that i've been very fortunate.
and i know that i have worked hard for the things i've accomplished -- read the book, he will seyou will see the thino overcome. and i really am grateful for all the people that still today come up to me and reminded m remind e stories from our past. i remember during the transition she was being interviewed by a reporter in houston. my mom with the typical response was i'm proud of all of my children and just the way it is. >> what procedures would improve by hispanic immigrants? >> wall for unlawful? >> lawful. i'm proud to be hispanic. it's who i am.
the first thing when we arrived in austin yesterday we went to a restaurant on the east side. i wouldn't expect the community to give that up at all but i think as americans our country remains strong if we share the basic values and pride. i love america and traveled to about 30 countries and there are some wonderful wonders beyond our shores it's not even close even today the negativity of the presidential election and what we are hearing. we are by far the greatest country on earth and we should take pride in being in america. when i speak to students around the country i talk about the importance of stepping up to the arena of public service. we are great because people do that and some people are afraid
of doing that and think what if i fail, i can't do that. that is what will push us to a second tier in the country. we remain a great country and we need the right leadership. hopefully that is going to happen next week but i remain positive and i have no problem with them maintaining pride and culture. take pride in being an american. as the former secretary of state, do you think the instance of voter fraud is too much? >> now we are a long way from the book. >> i'm just giving an opportunity.
it was a wonderful child, beautiful office in the capital and i've really enjoyed my time but to answer very quickly within, i think when people go tto vote today should be who thy say they are and should be qualified to vote. on the other hand, we shouldn't make it difficult for people to vote. some people buy virtue of their age and physical condition or education and experience it can be intimidating to vote. we shouldn't erect unnecessary barriers to voting. when someone votes and they shouldn't be, i do care very much about the integrity of the voting process and whether or not we have the level of fraud people are talking about i will leave that for the experts to
answer. >> what is the fbi going to do? [laughter] >> developed -- about what? [laughter] >> you really should get a television to be more current. >> i'm disappointed. i think people are saying negative things about the fbi and the department of justice and the director and that is never a good thing. i am hopeful all of this will get straightened out and do leadership will be applied in the department which includes the fbi and we get to the right outcome. i've been somewhat surprised and puzzled at some of these events
in connection with the investigations that are apparently ongoing. >> we all know where we were on 9/11. so talk about 9/11. >> i look at the age of this audience and most of you look like you are a mature age in ald all of you have a memory of that day. we all have a 9/11's great where all the images we first heard, what was going on. i flew out of dulle dulles airpt thaairport themorning of the 2:e airports that 77 took off from within the hour that was crashed into the pentagon killing everyone on board. i was flying to norfork virginia to give a speech and when i got to the hotel, the first tower
was hit and i got on the phone with my deputy and the situation room and the initial reporting was we think it's a mistake, just a tragic accident. i gave my speech and rushed to the airport and by the time we get to the gate all traffic has been grounded. i feel like i need to get back to my post. president bush is making his way back to the white house and i feel like i have to be back at my post before the commander in chief gets back and i don't know what to do so we run into a navy officer at the airport and he says let me take you to the naval station to see if they can help you. now you have to remember it is transitioning to the highest alert. they have people running around with machine guns and here are these two from washington. [laughter] can you help us get home.
he said i will see what we can do and he put us in this room and we watched the television like everyone else. the communications that existed with the white house were very spotty just like everyone else because the lions were overloaded and that may be shocking to hear with respect to white house communications. i remember later in the morning and officer came up to me and said we are trying to get the clearance to fly you back. where do you want us to take you and i said as close as you can to the white house and he said what if we land you on the south lawn and of course immediately i kind of flinched and i said no, nobody but the president lands on the south lawn. imagine a helicopter coming, doors open up and i pop out. [laughter] and of course concerned that someone might make a mistake and
see and shoot us down. we agreed it would take us to andrews air force base and finally we got the clearance about noon to fly back. i got back about 2:00, they took us immediately to an underground bunker where dick cheney and other members of the administration were and i spent this rest of that day in the east wing to the situation room in the west wing to my office on the second floor of the west wing, just back and forth making sure all of the issues were being covered an in at about 7:i got the word president bush was coming home. what moment stands out above all others in your service, it's that moment standing there on the porch and while ching as the marine one brings president bush home. i used to work for governor bush communications director at the time.
as he approached this i knew we were going to be okay. he was ready to go and we were expected to be ready to go so that was my day. my deputy took me home because my car had been parked at some of the hijackers want for my deputy picked me up about 6:00 and we arrived at the white house in a brand-new world that continues today. >> talk briefly about what every new cabinet secretary agency heads deals with. you're the attorney general, the head of the justice department.
so you work with the justice department and so what's involved in the first week? >> i dealt with all the leadership and all the major issues in the department of justice and as white house counsel under the white house ie bureaucracy that exists between the candidate so i had a tremendous advantages quite frankly in terms of stepping in at the department of justice but of course you're going to meet new people that don't know you.
just getting to know the employees at the department of justice i would say that question is a little bit unfair. >> i want to say because my wife is here and i talk about this in the book the importance of family. i couldn't have done what i did without the support of my fami family, she was always there for me and i was grateful for the service that she provided and also the opportunities to someone provided like me and george w. bush for the opportunity to work with people like clay johnson and other dedicated individuals who care a lot about america and work every day to do the right thing. >> thank you so much for being here. [applause]
while we wait for the texas book festival to resume, we want to show you a little bit from an interview we did from the university of texas professor on a recent visit. >> what is the purpose of studying physics? >> there's many reasons. it has practical value but not the kind of physics idea of. that may at some future date bring technological advances but that's not why i do. there is also in addition to practical reasonthepractical rea grand historical program of trying to uncover the laws of nature and there are fundamental principles that govern
everything which are at the root of all explanations if you ask why is the grass green, you can trace the answer back to some fundamental mathematical principles. we don't have them yet. we have gone pretty far towards them. we have a very satisfying theo theory. it covers almost everything we know aside from gravitation but it's not the final answer so we try to take the next step. >> is it important to find the
final answer? >> you could ask is it important to write symphonies or preserve our environment and i think these things are important in themselves. the importance of learning the walls is a little bit vitiated by the fact they will probably be expressed in mathematical terms most people won't have the language to understand. but that changes with time. when the theory of that gravitate and a motion was first developed, there were only a handful of people in the world who were able to understand it. now it is commonplace, something that everyone who goes into engineering or science learns quite early in their education. so these things to spread out into society in general and i