tv True Faith and Allegiance CSPAN November 11, 2016 6:00pm-6:46pm EST
beyond their reach into was a big problem and this keeps coming up that was coming up with facebook there is not dead with their room big enough to make those calls we don't have a great answer but it cannot be we will block 1% of 1 billion because that is bigger than the biggest library we have ever made. >> thanks to the panel and all of you for your questions and for coming here tonight. [applause] [inaudible conversations]
rit rature. you know it's a nonprofit organization by awarding library grants and reading rock starsac program sending nationally recognized authors and illustrators into title one schools and donating books to those students.tl by being here today and buying books, you are funding the important initiatives. thank you very much. please silence cell phones. no photography allowed. authors will be signing book after the session including alan gonzález, books available in the tent just down. my name is klay thompson, it'ssy my honor to be a moderator of this session today.jo we are here to hear from alberto gonzález, who is the author of this new book, true faith and allegiance, story of service anw
sacrifice in war in peace. al has served our country and our state as attorney general, white house counsel, seniorr counsel to the president in the white house, as member of thente texas supreme court court and secretary of state in the state of texas. i worked with al in austin andnr in washington, d.c. and we both agree it was such an honor and privilege and really hard work to work at the highest level of government in the state of texas and in washington, d.c. i thought i knew everything big picturewise that happened with governor-president bush but reading al's book there's a depth and complexity that i had no notion at all. i found the book inspiring and interesting. it was about the key decision
that is were made, whatecisio decisions were made and why they were made. also, in my opinion, book, al becomes supreme court justice, the attorney general of the united states coming from the background he did in houston, i'm told time and time again only happens in america and the form of government we have as pointed out by this book, only exists in america. it's a wonderful, wonderful read but i'm a little bias because i have known al for a long time and worked with bush, so let's get on with the discussion with alberto, al gonzález. al, what's your story? [laughter] >> i will be back in 30 minutes. >> let me begin by thanking clay
and anne johnson for hosting us for this visit.ha becky and my wife and i are delighted to be back in austin.e we are delight today see so many -- delighted to see so many old friends and i have really lived the american dream and as you read my dream you'll get, i think, a better appreciationan than that. of course, my story is not unique. i know there are people in the audience and in the country, hundreds of thousands of people who have lived a similar story. i was one of eight children growing in a small two-bedroom house, didn't have a telephone until i was a junior in high school and then from there, you know, to be the son of a dad who had a second grade education and a mom who had sixth grade education but from there going into the air force serving as a veteran and then going to the
air force academy and then to rice and then harvard law school and then from there going to ad big firm in houston and i met a guy named george w. bush and he gave me several once in a lifetime opportunities that clay has mentioned. but this is really special. the journey of mind is tremendous and i hope in this book to inspire others, realize what is really possible in america. i'm often asked what's it like as clay knows better as well ase i do, 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 roosevelt and jfk, it's the same desk used by ronald reagan as he worked in the world car. what's it like to stand in the united states and stand in the
oval office porch on 9/11, what's it like to be a cabinet secretary and be involved in discussions in the secretary room? as machine -- an americange citizen i can't think of any other thrill other than the birth of your child, white house is the most recognizable 18 acres in the world and people come from all over the world to catch a glimpse of it. why is it so special? the most important person in the world is in there making decisions every single day. myself, clay and so many other dedicated americans, we really had a special privilege to serve in the white house, to serve ine particular this president george w. bush. >> there were so many things covered as i said earlier in such detail.
talk about the -- there were many things revealed in greater detail that i knew about. talk about the biggest revelations in your mind that are written about or addressedht in the book that they would find new insights to and understanding about. >> i don't know if they're the biggest revelation and a couple of stories that you might find of interest. after 9/11, president bub addressed congress and it was a time of great uncertainty at the time as we all remember but also time of great unity and pride of being an american and i remembed after that particular address justice thomas came up to him and said, ride tall in the saddle in the tone of justiceid thomas and from my perspective president bush did that in the m months, weeks, years following, standing tall for the united states. every time the president
addresses the nation it's a pretty big deal.dr every time the members of the cabinet and the leadership of the congress gets together, one person is asked to stay away and that person is designated survivor. it is part of our government plan so in the event there's aof catastrophe and everyone is killed, someone is alive to's serve as president of the united states. and in 24007 i was advised days before the president's state of the union, at the time i was the attorney general that i would be that designated survivor and i was given a couple of options about what i could do and the choice i made required me toe spend the evening on an airplane and i remember arriving atqu andrews air force base and there to greet me was a member of every major department and agency and carrying stick binders and protocols and classified procedures to advise me in the event the unthinkable happened at the capitol. as we took parts unknown, i received a number of classified briefings and i settled in too watch the president's state of
the union and as he spoke, it suddenly hit me, the magnitude of the moment, i advised bush -- george w. bush to two wars so pretty good moments before, so sitting in the airplane it suddenly happened, what would happen in the unthinkable happened at the capitol. my duty now discharged as i like to tell audiences around the country. it is probably the closest it'll ever be of being your president of the united states. [laughter] >> one other story that i will tell you, you know from the transition, president bush, at the time i was serving as white house counsel he told me i want to be ready for a supreme courtt vacancy and so my team and i began working with the department of justice in developing a short list of short
candidates. it was wildly speculated in the med amongst legal community that president bush we wanted to appoint the first hispanic to the supreme court and because of my relationship with george w. bush and the positions that i held particularly having served as justice in the supreme court and there was speculation that president bush would appoint me to the u.s. supreme court. we prepared for a vacancy and the stories continued to perculate and i'm confirmed as attorney general of the united states. july 1st, we get word, i get a call from the new white house counsel, she calls me to say we have a vacancy. it's not who we expected. chief justice rhenquist had throat cancer and we were preparing for a vacancy at the chief justice position and i'm at the white house.
the president decide that had we were going to have a small group of individuals make final recommendations to him about whs he would appoint to the supreme court. those people would be the vice president, dick cheney, the chief of staff andy, harriet, myself and karl rove, political consultant and i arrived and everybody is there except forr andy, he's on the telephone, via teleconference and talk about how we are going to prepare to roll out the announcement and how we are going to prepare to help the president make the decision. we talked about half an hour and we all get up to leave and president bush said, al, would you stay behind and so i'm standing in the oval office with the vice president and president and before i even sit down president bush says, i'm not going to put you on the court. he says you're doing a great job at justice, you've only been there a few months, i need to keep you at the department of justice and so my immediate response was, of course, i was
disappointed.. it would have been quite an honor to be the first hispanic to the supreme court but my response was fairly simple which was, you owe me nothing and i owe you everything. i'm grateful for attorney general of the united states and i look forward getting nominee confirmed. i left, the stories increased about my possibly going on the court, becky and i met for evening that dinner and sat down and i said, i've got something to tell you.evening an and first thing i said was, i'm not going to the supreme court and in a sense it was somewhat of a relief. i was anxiously to leave washington, d.c., hopefully come back to texas and also it sort of freed me to do my job as attorney general not having tham pressure of possibly being thena nominee. but then i give her the second bit of news, tomorrow i'm going to iraq and she said, what, and of course, we minimized the number of people that know about that kind of travel because ofpe security reasons.
i think she probably felt better, safer for me to go in iraq than the supreme court. [laughter] >> but anyway, it was -- i think history is going to look back, i firmly believe at the appointment for john roberts and alito and represent president bush's finest decisions. >> i have read different revies of your book and had my ownad review which i have shared with you and there's a lot of pander about everything in the book and you talk in a couple of occasions of things that you know your job is not a game of perfect, but if you had to do it all over again there are a couple of things that you would would probably do differently or make recommendation, why don't you talk about, give a sense -- pick one. >> yeah, i'm often asked this question. do you have any regrets, whatt things would you do differently,
you need to appreciate how hard the jobs are and people at the highest levels are going to make mistakes because these are the a most difficult decisions you can possibly imagine. it would be great in hindsight to be able to change those decisions and gee, wouldn't life be great if we had do-overs but life isn't that way. to the extent we gave recommendations to the president about authorities as commander in chief dealing with american citizens on the war on terror and supreme court issue and decisions, no, the president a doesn't have -- the president's authority is commander in chief doesn't really extend that far. obviously we would provide different advice to the president so that he wouldn't take certain kinds of actions, but, you know, i don't -- i'm not generally in the habit ofab categorizing or listing the things we would do over. i know very quickly one thing i once wrote a memo, it was certainly as a draft in talking about the application of the geneva conventions and i
happened to mention in the same sentence certain provisions ofhe the geneva convention and i wasn't talking about the purposc of the geneva convention but revision that is with respect to prisoners of war you have to provide them athletic uniform and access to scientific instruments, you to give them a monthly allowance. i felt that the american people would stand and this draft got leaked and i was immediately just pillard by the media and critics. nothing further could have been from the true and the lesson i know from there, to minimize the amount of information that you put in writing, be careful about your emails as we know now today. the dangerous of that and that really is a shame because it's very hard for historians to really come back after the fact and develop a really accurate
history of what the decisionsev that are made and the reasonss for that decision. >> what prompted you write the book and then how did you write a book, i tried to write the book and decided i was not capable? >> i really -- i decided to write the book because of concerns about rhetorics, stories about the decisions made during the bush administration and what i tried to do is give the background and the details and decisions like the applications of geneva convention, why did we choose guantanamo bay, what about the decisions relate today electronic surveillance. what are the techniques, there are a lot of stories, 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, one of the lawyers
involved in some of these key recommendations and opinions. the other reason that i wrote the book quite frankly is i wanted my sons to know what their dad did and why he did them.. i thought that was important for me as an individual and in terms of the process of writing it. i began right after i left office so many years ago in 24007 and started writingar handwritten chapters and i wrote the entire book handwritten and from --n >> cursive? >> i didn't print. i didn't print. in cursive and i would ask my wife from time to time to type it up and she would try to read my cursive and, you know, eventually we had five or six chapters that were typed up but i really wasn't making much progress and so it sat follow and from time to time i would pick it up and would sit there again.
it really was hard in terms of what's included and what not to include.e. o when i got to nashville, tennessee five years ago or two years ago i met an individual named ken abraham. ken has been writing and cowriting over 70 or 80 books and ken lived down the road from me and we got together and he said, i can help you finish your story and so with ken's help i was finally able to get the work completed. for those who have not written a book, even if it's a book about your life, something that you think you know a lot about, it is incredibly hard and it takess a great deal of patience, a great deal of courage to go back through all of the controversial things that i went through, to relive all of that was difficult for me but in a way also very helpful to talk about it. but it was very hard, but i am so glad, so glad that i did it but i am so glad it's over. [laughter]
>> there is so much detail, i mean, long quotes, who said what and what meetings, you and i talked about before, how did you -- those specific quotations. >> i often was the only lawyer in the room, for example, i was at every meeting of the security counsel and situation room. if the president is going to say something, i want to make sure it's accurate record so someonea after the fact wouldn't say something he didn't say. when you sit in the meetings, somebody may say something funny, i might write it down. i didn't keep a dairy but i wrote notes in calendar to remember about certain incidents and conversations but i'm comfort football i put something in quotes in the book that, in fact, it was said, but again as with everything in life, what is
reflected in the book is my perspective, my recollection, others who were presents might have different recollections and different perspectives. the other thing that complicated the book, let me end on this note, it took two months for the government to clear the book. we talked about a lot of sensitive information, some of it was classified and so as you read the book there maybe some parts, may not be as quite as clear to you as you might expect and it's because the government asked me, actually they told me not -- not to -- not to say certain things, not to say things in a certain way and so in order to accommodate their desires, changes were made to the book and that really complicated the editing process and, of course, for publication schedule. >> does anybody else -- does anybody else have -- indicate a question that they would like to ask at the end, if they want to turn it in, we have a card.
several back there. >> al, talk about your family, your mother. i'm fascinated by that and your mother watching you and how many siblings? >> 7 siblings growing up. >> 8 children total growing up. talk about that. it's fascinate to go me. >> my mom is a typical hispanic mother, strong catholic in her faith, disciplinarian, she ruled the household and my mom is still alive today, she's 84. she's lived in the house that my dad built, the house that i greh up in and i tell the story about my mom. my dad died during my last semester in law school. my dad came to visit with me when i was in the white house and we did everything that tourist do, i took her to monuments and museums but i also took her into the oval office. i wanted to show the shallow
women about 5 feet nothing what i had accomplished because of her sacrifices and the sacrifices of my father. now, when i was a boy we had a daily ritual and i'm sure this is a ritual that 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 with my dad as a little boy and we had samet thing for benefit which was eggs and tortillas. my dad would make beans and tortillas. daily r fast-forward to dc, i took my mother to oval office and her last day of visit, she was up making breakfast for me, just like he had done every day for my dad. but i wasn't wearing, you know, blue jeans and a hard hat, i had my suit on and i was reporting to work white house adviser, the most powerful person in the world.
think of the wonder that must have felt her heart where i used to take her to cotton fields as young girl to the oval office. that's really america's story and that's god's grace when i look back at my life. >> the author who was speaking after you here, i believe, is talking about immigration and this has been a topic of conversation to put it mildly in this current presidential race. talk about immigration policy, you've written a book, i think, on that.on >> right, i wrote a book about immigration, probably sold two copies, my wife and my mom bought the books.
we are a nation of immigrants but we are also a nation of a laws, somehow we have to accommodate the two principles that really make america unique and in this book i do talk about the things that i would urge the congress to consider. i do believe we need comprehensive immigration reform. one that's permanent and congress and the president can give us, one that has border security and one that hast workplace enforcement, one that recognizes that we are a nation of immigrants, and there has to be exceptions where extraordinary circumstances of family relations and situations, what do we do about the people that are brought here by children, what kind of opportunities do we bring them, i think these are all very complicated issues and i get it. what's lost in the debate is that everyone who cares about this is not going to get everything that they want in any kind of immigration bill. everyone has to compromise in
order to get something done because it has become politicized. in any event, i know you'll hear more about immigration from other speakers, i think it's an important topic. i would to see candidates speakn more about it, presidential candidates, i mean, hopefully it's something with the election and the next president whoever happens to be will make progress because a good immigration policy is going to help our economy and also going to help secure our borders. >> let me give you some of the questions of the audience. did president bush review the book before it was published? >> interesting, he came to nashville this spring and speaking at an event and before the event becky and i and one of our sounds graham spent time with him and, of course, the book was getting ready to come out and we asked him, do you g need to read this book, or do you want to read this book? he said, no.
[laughter] >> there could be two reasons. the first is he trusts me. that's the first reason. the second reason is, you know, listen, he's been out of office for a while, a lot has been written about the bush presidency, he probably thought, you know what else could be said negative about me. what could al say that could possibly hurt me. i would like to think it's the former but you will have to ask him quite frankly. >> your book is entitled true faith and allegiance, can you speak about your faith and how it impacted your public service? >> yeah, these jobs are so difficult and often time lives hang in the ballots, certainly on recommendations of executions and decisions to sending young men and women into battle. i believe that you need to haveo faith in higher power and inhi decisions better than yourself and in these often times it's
much bigger than yourself. when i look at it, someone who could be president and wants to be president, somebody who believes god and the power of prayer is very important. the job is too hard and for me, yes, having that belief in god and, you know, praying about decisions that i had to make, recommendations that i would have to make to the president or governor were very, very important and, you know, president bush fairly private in terms of, you know, prayer and things like that, but there were times, very difficult moments, quiet moments where he wouldn simply go say i have to go pray about this. again, i just think it's very, very important to have people of faith in making some of the very difficult decisions. >> this is a question from me. >> and i talk about -- and i do in the book talk about those difficult moments and the trying
times, particularly when i became attorney general. i get no pleasure from seeing attacks on current attorney general, previous attorney general because i know how hard the jobs can be and oh, my gosh, seems like the whole world is against you and you have to havo confidence in yourself and faith that you're doing the rightt thing. >> what do you think will be thy most new news part of this book, the things that have been dealt with least of all by other reporters or least accurately by other reporters that you think this will significantly add to the clarity of the book? >> i think you may be surprised about how hard we worked to get it right, incredibly hard. the lawyers worked so hard. i've heard some criticism that the war on terror has been overlawyered, president bush wanted to make sure that we got it right because we were dealin
with a new kind of enemy and new kind of conflict, often time there were no go-byes, nothing to rely on and no precedent. i spent some time going into detail about all the issues that we -- we dealt with and we considered certain options, you know, we threw away certain options. so hopefully people will see because i do spend some time talking about howard we worked to get it right. did we always get it right? g no, we didn't. the supreme court told us in the times we didn't get it right but we worked very hard to get it right. >> governor had a flat line management style, how did that management style translate in the white house and washington culture? >> i remember after two weeks after election, i came to austin and had my first substantive conversation with governor bush
and the reason for the meeting was for me to get a better idea of him and me of him. he went to the chalk board orke the board and drew a big x for the governor and a bunch of x's underneath. you will have direct access to me..of you that was a very important for someone like me who had never been in government before. when you get the washington, there were certain individualsnt who had that same kind of access. you know, assuming the president was not in a meeting, if i needed to see the president, i got to see the president. andy had a saying, if you need to see president, you see the president and if you want to see the president, you can't see the president. it would be true. i would come over to governor's office and we would talk aboutoe three things, we would talk about policy, we would talk about politics and we would talk
about what else would we talk about? he loves baseball. you don't do that with the president of the united states. those moments are so very special. the time is so precious, identify often heard president bush say that for presidency is about decision-making. you cannot make a decision, you cannot be president because you cannot be worried about being criticized.t you cannot be word about making the wrong decision, you have to make a decision and move on, why? because the next big decision is waiting right outside the oval office door. and so time is very precious and so i really, you know, the times that i would most often see the president was between 7:00 and 7:30 at 7:30 meetings began. he was a morning person and i was a morning person. i could go down to my second-floor office and down to the oval office and talk to the president about the issues that i needed to know his guidance in terms of where he wanted to go.
>> you talked about your mother's love for you and your siblings and professional career, have you run across friends from back in the day before you became secretary of state, before you became the supreme court justice and what is their response and what are the conversation that is you have with them, your friends from before you were a senior official here in washington? >> we just try to keep it real. i mean, no, i would like to think that i'm pretty much the same guy from texas where i gre up and i respect the accomplishments from all of my friends and i know that i've been very fortunate and i know i worked hard for the things that i have accomplished and as you read the book, you'll see about the things that i had to
overcome and i really am grateful for all of the people that still today, you know, come up to me and remind me about -- about stories from our past. you know, my mom during -- i a remember during the transition in 2000, she was being interviewed by a reporter in i houston, you're so proud of your son, the things that he's accomplished, the perfect mother response said i'm proud of all my children and that's just the way it is. >> what procedures would improve assimilation by hispanicld impro immigrants? >> lawful immigrants or unlawful immigrants? >> lawful. >> i love my culture, i love mexican food and i miss that in nashville, tennessee, first thing i did when i arrived in austin was go to a mexican restaurant on the east side but something i'm proud of.
i wouldn't expect the hispanic community to give that up at all, as americans our country remains strong if we all have the shared values, basic level of shared values and pride in being america. i love america. i've traveled to about 30 countries and there are some wonderful wonders beyond our shores but it's not even close, still today despite thee negativity of the presidential and what we are hearing constantly every day, we are by far the greatest country in the face of the earth, we should take pride in being an american and when i speak to young students around the country, i talk about the importance of stepping up, stepping in the arena of public service, we are great because people do that and some people are afraid about doing that and they think, well, what if i fail or i can't do that, that's the kind of thinking that, i think, will push us to the second tier as a country. a
we remain a great country, we need the right leadership, hopefully that's going to happen next week, but i remain very positive about america and i think with respect to hispanic immigrants who come to this country, i have no problem with them maintaining pride in their culture, pride in their home country, but if you're in america, take pride in being american. >> as a former texas secretary of state, do you think -- do you think the instance of voter fraud is too much? >> now we are moving along way from the book. [laughter] >> i'm just giving them an opportunity. >> now -- >> sorry about potential -- i don't think i talk much about this in the book even though i will say serving secretary of state, becky can confirm that it
was such a wonderful job. we loved it. beautiful office in the capital. to answer very quickly your question, listen, i think -- i think when people go to vote they should be who they say that are and qualified to vote.e we should not make it difficult for people to vote, some simply by virtue of age or physical condition or perhaps education and experience it can be intimidating to vote. we should not -- i do care veryy much about the integrity of the voting process, whether or not we have the level of fraud that some people are talk about, i will leave that to the experts to answer. >> what is the fbi going to do?? [laughter]
>> about what? [laughter] >> you really should get a television. [laughter] to be >> listen, i'm disappointed. i think people are saying negative things about the fbi and about the department of justice and the ag, the fbi director and that's never a good thing. so i'm hopeful that all of this will get straightened out and that the leadership will be applied in that -- in the department which includes the fbi and we get to the right outcome. so i will just say that i've been somewhat surprised and puzzled at some of the event that is have happened during the election cycle in connection with, you know, the investigations that have -- that are apparently ongoing. i will just leave it at that.
>> we all know where we were on 9/11, so talk about 9/11. that day. >> i look at the age of this audience and most of you look like you're of a mature age, all of you have a memory of that day. we all have a 9/141 -- 9/11 story. i flu out of dulus airport and that's the same 877 took and killing everyone on board. so i was flying to virginia to give a speech to government lawyers and when i got to the hotel, the first tower had been hit, got on the phone with my deputy who was in the situation and the initial reporting was we think it's a mistake, just a tragic accident. i give my speech, by the time i
finished, second tower has been hit. i'm traveling with one of my lawyers, by the time we get to the gate all traffic has been grounded. i'm stranded. i'm in north virginia and i feel like i i need to get back to my post in the white house. president bush starts day in florida, he will be making his way 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, let me take you to the naval station and see if they can help you. take us there, take us to the base commander. you have to remember the base is transitioning to the highest alert, they have people running around with machine guns and these two from washington, sir, can you help us get home? it's the last thing he wants, well, i will see what i can do. they put us in this room and we just watched television like everyone else.
the communications that existed with the white house were very spotty just like everybodyth thw else's, because the lines were overleaded and that may be shock to go hear with respect to white house communication. i remember later in the morning an officer came up to me, where do you want us to take you? >> and i said, well, take me as close as you can to the white house and he said immediately, what if we land you on the south lawn and i flirched -- flinched. no, doors open up and al gonzález pops out. [laughter] >> the only nonpresident. >> or someone thinks t a mistake and shoot us down. finally we got clearance about noon to fly back. i got back about 2:00 o'clock.
they took us to the bunker where chieny were at and i spent going from underground bunker to thees east wing to the situation room to my office in the second floow of the west wing back and forth making sure that all the legal issues were being covered. when i'm asked what moment stands out, it is that momentomt standing watching marine brings back president bush home. i was curious to see what i would see in his face, we greeted him and he didn't say a word to us and nodded and walked right but us and i knew it was going to be okay. he knew he had a job to do. were we afraid?
i'm asked that question often, no, we had a job to do. our job was to protect you and so we took our cues from the guy at the top. we were ready to go. that was my day. my car had been parked where thy hijackers parked. we arrived to a brand new world and that world continues today. >> talk briefly about what every new cabinet secretary agency had that deals with, you're the head and attorney general, you're the head of justice department. in one minute so you go in and you work with the justice department and you were not the head of the justice department. what's involved in the first week, one minute? i
>> i had an advantage over most cabinet secretaries, i had dealt with all the leadership of justice and as white house counsel, i dealt with all the major issues at the department of justice and as white house counsel i knew the white house bureaucracy and exists between the agency. i had advantages in terms of stepping in the department of justice. of course, you will meet new people because they don't know because there's 1,405,000 people at the department and they all want to get a look at the boss. you to project a level of confidence and competence and from my perspective, i spent as much time as i could when i didn't have meetings scheduled at the department i was there going through various agencies, floors, you know, stopping by, shaking people's hands and just get to go know the employees at the department of justice. so, you know, i would say the question is unfair to me because it's my relationship from working in the white house.
>> final comments? >> final comments, i want to just say because my wife is here and i talk about this in the book and this would be reflected in the book and that's the importance of family and support of family. i could not have done what i did without the support of my family. and i talk about the difficult times that we went through in washington and how it affected my family and becky was always there for me. she was a rock and i'm very, very grateful for the service that she provided. i'm also grateful for the opportunities in america for someone like this, grateful to george w. bush and work people like clay johnson and other dedicated individuals who really care a lot about america and work every day to do the right thing.hi >> al, thank you so much for being here. [applause] >> thank you all for coming. al, the signing tent is right down