tv True Faith and Allegiance CSPAN November 27, 2016 1:00am-1:46am EST
colonel, he asked interview and haldeman realized here somebody out of air force -- somebody who would be perfect to bring in as his deputy. he he did that with nixon's approval but nixon didn't meet butterfield until the first weeks of the presidency and on their meeting it is described shows how nixon literally cannot talk, all he did was mobile. . . . 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 it's my honor to be moderator of the session today. we are here to hear from alberto gonzales, who is the author of his new book "true faith and
allegiance" a story of service and sacrifice in war and peace. al has served our country and our state as attorney general, white house senior cancel to the president of the white house as a member of the texas supreme court and secretary of state for the state of texas. i have worked with al and austin and washington d.c. and we both agree it's such an honor in such a 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 picture wise that it happened with president bush that junior al's book made me realize there's a depth and complexity that i had no notion up at all. i found this book really
inspiring, really interesting. it's about the key decisions that were made, what decisions were made, how they were made and why they were made. it's also my opinion a wonderful american book. al becoming a supreme court justice the attorney general of the united states coming from the background he did in houston i am told time and time again only happen in america and the form of government we have as pointed out by this book only exists in america. it's a wonderful, wonderful. but i'm a little biased because i have known al for a long time. so let's get on with the discussion of alberto as we refer to him al gonzalez. al, what is your story? i'll be back in 30 minutes.
>> correct me begin by thanking clay for hosting this visit. my wife and i are delighted to be back in austin. we have such member -- wonderful memories and we are so delighted to see many old friends some of you who are here this morning to participate in this discussion. i really have lived the american dream and as you read my book i think you will get a better appreciation. my story is not unique. i know there are people in the audience and certainly around the country, hundreds of thousands of people who lived the story. i was one child growing up in a house with no electricity or water and didn't have a telephone and so i was a junior in high school. from there to be the son of a dead who had the second grade education and a mom who had a sixth-grade education but from their going into the air force
and serving as a veteran and then of course going to the air force academy and then to harvard law school and a big firm in houston. then i met a guy named george w. bush and he gave me several lifetime opportunities that clay had mentioned. it really is special this journey of mine. it's been tremendous and i hope in this book to inspire others and to help others realize what is really possible in america. i'm often asked what's it like an clay knows as well as i do what's it like to work in the white house and 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 as he worked with winston churchill to end that war? at the same desk used by jfk as he wrestled with the cuban missile crisis. this same desk used by ronald reagan as he worked in the cold war. what's it like to stand in front of the desk and advise the present united states who he should write to the u.s. supreme court?
what's it like to stand on a global -- cabinet secretary and to be involved in discussions and situation room on the most controversial issues? as an american citizen i can't imagine a greater thrill other than being a parent and being there for the birth of my child to serve in that capacity. the white house is the most recognized no 18 acres of the world and people, from all over the world to catch a glimpse of it. why's it why is it so important and why is it so special? the most important in the world the most powerful person in the world is making decisions every single day. myself, clay in so many other dedicated americans really have a special privilege to serve in the white house and serve under president george w. bush. >> there were so many things covered as i said earlier in such detail.
there were many things revealed in greater detail than i ever knew about. talk about the biggest revelation in your mind in the best of the book that they would find new insights to a new understanding of. >> i will tell a couple of stories you might find of interest and one in particular. after 9/11 the week after 9/11 president bush stressed a joint congress and there was a great uncertainty at that time as we all remember but also a time of great unity and pride in being an american. after that address as he was leaving the capital justice thomas came up to him and said right tall in the saddle buddy in that deep baritone voice. from my perspective president bush did just that in the weeks, months and years following
standing tall for the united states. every time the president addresses the nation it's a pretty big deal. as you know every time the members of the cabinet and the leadership of congress get together one person has to stay away and that person is a designated survivor. part of our continuity of government plan in the event there's a catastrophe never everyone is duty now it is probe
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 because of my relationship with george w. bush and having served with the justice of the supreme court there was speculation that president bush's appointment to the u.s. supreme court so we prepared for a vacancy and the stories continued to percolate but no vacancy occurred. come the end of the first term president bush nominated me and confirmed me as attorney general of the united states and on july 1 we get word, get a call from harriet miers who is now the new white house counsel she called to say we have a vacancy. chief justice rehnquist had been monitoring the situation and expected we were preparing for a chief justice position.
i get to the white house and there i met the president decided we would have a small group of individuals make recommendations to him about who he would appoint to the supreme court to those people would be the vice president dick cheney the chief of staff andy card myself as attorney general and karl rove. i arrived at the oval office and everyone there except for andy who had been traveling but he is on the phone and we talk about how we are going to prepare to roll out this announcement and how we are going to prepared to help the president take the decision that we talked about half an hour and we all get up to leave and president bush said al would you stay behind? i'm in the oval office with the vice president and the president and before even sat down president bush said i'm not going to put you on the court. he said you are doing a great job. i need to keep you at the department of justice and my
immediate response was of course i was disappointed. it was quite an honor to be the first hispanic on the supreme court that my response was fairly simple which was you all mean nothing and i owe you everything. i'm grateful to be appointed the attorney general of the united states and i look forward to being nominated. i left and i remember that day back and i've met for dinner that evening and i said i've got something to tell you. and the first thing i said was i'm not going to the supreme court and in a sense it was somewhat of a relief. we were actually anxious to leave washington d.c. hopefully to come back to texas and it freaked me out to do my job as attorney general without the pressure of possibly being the nominee. then i gave her the second bit of news. tomorrow i'm going to iraq and she said what? of course we minimize the number of people that knew about the
travel. i think she probably felt better and felt it was safer for me to go into iraq than to be on the supreme court. i think history is going to look back at the appointment of john roberts sam alito and conclude that those words president bush's final two decisions. >> you have. some different reviews of your book and i have my own review that i will share with you. there is a lot about everything in the book any talk about a couple of cases, your job is not a game of being perfect and the java present is not a game of being perfect but if you had to do it over again if anything you would do different or different recommendation what you talk about the steps. >> i'm often asked those questions what would you do
differently and you need to appreciate how the heart these jobs are in people at the highest level will make mistakes. these are the most difficult decision you can possibly imagine. it would be great in hindsight to be able to change those decisions and wouldn't life be great if we had two overs that life isn't that way. when i was back or example to the extent that gave recommendations to the president about his authority ask commander in chief being with american citizens on the war on terror issuing decisions the president's authority as commander in chief has done that for us. would it provide different advice to the president so he wouldn't take certain kinds of actions. i know very quickly i once wrote a memo as a draft talking about the application to the geneva
convention and i happened to mention the same sentence certain provisions were claimed. i wasn't talking about the purpose of the convention but simply the provisions in the geneva convention that say with respect to prisoners of war you provide them athletic uniforms access to scientific instruments. you have to give them a monthly allowance. i felt the american people would not stand for those kinds of privileges being given to terrorists who killed 2000 americans. in any event the draft got leaked and i was immediately pilloried in the media by my critics because of the fact that they felt i was critical of the geneva convention. the lesson i learned there is to minimize the amount of information that you put in writing, be careful about your e-mails as we know now today. the dangers of that and that really is a shame because it's hard for historians to come back
after-the-fact and develop an accurate history of the decisions that are made in the resistance -- the reasons for those decisions. >> 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 a concern about some of the rhetoric and some of the stories about the decisions made during the bush administration. what i tried to do is give the background and the details of decisions like the application of the geneva convention. why did we choose guantánamo bay? what about the decisions leading to electronic surveillance and what are the limits there? what about enhanced interrogation techniques. there a lot of stories out there and a lot of conflicting different ideas and opinions about these things and i just thought it would be important from the perspective of one of the lawyers involved in some of
these key recommendations and opinions. the other reason that i wrote the book quite frank way i wanted my son to know what their dad did and why he'd did them. i thought it was important for me as an individual and in terms of the process of writing it i began right after i left office oh my gosh so many years ago in 2007 and started writing handwritten chapters. i wrote the entire book handwritten. >> cursive? >> i didn't print, guests and cursive and i would ask my wife from time to time to type it up and she would read my cursive. eventually we may have had five or six chapters that were typed up but i really wasn't making much progress. it just sat there in time after
time i would pick it up and it really was hard in terms of what to include and what not to include. when i got to nashville tennessee two years ago or so i met an individual named ken abraham. ken is involved in writing or cowriting 70 or 80 books and canned lives just down the road from me. we got together and he said i can help you finish your story. so with ken's help i was able to get the work completed. for those of you who have not written a book even if it's a book about your life something you think you know a lot about it is incredibly hard and it takes a great deal of patience, a great deal of courage. to go back through all the controversial things that i went through to relive all that was very difficult for me. into play also very quixotic and helpful to talk about it. it was very hard but i'm so glad
, so glad that i did it and so glad it's over. >> there is so much detail, long quotes of who said what at what meetings. >> as counsel to the present i was often the only lawyer in the room. for example i was present at every meeting of the staff security council in the situation room. if the president is going to say something i would want to make sure was an accurate record of someone after-the-fact would not say something i didn't say. and when you are sitting in these meetings someone might say something evocative for funny and later on i might write it down. oftentimes i wrote notes in my calendar to remind me about certain incidents and conversations but i'm very comfortable in terms of i put something in the book that in fact it was said. as with everything in life what
is reflected in the book from my perspective, my recollection. others who are president might have a different recollection and different perspective. the other thing that complicated the writing of the book and let me end on this note and that is that it took two months. we talk about sensitive information and some of that which was classified so as you read the book there may be some parts that may not be as clear to you as you may expect. they actually told me not to say certain things and not to say things in a certain way so in order to accommodate their desires changes were made to the book and not really complicated the editing process and the publication schedule. >> does anybody else have a question they would like to ask? do we have a card?
there are several back there. al, talk about your family, your mother. i'm fascinated by that. your mother watching you and how many siblings? >> seven siblings growing up. >> eight siblings total growing up. talk about that just a little bit. >> my mom is a typical hispanic mother, strong catholic interfaith, disciplinarian. she really ruled the household and my mom is still alive today. she is 84 and she lived in the house of my dad told them that i grew up in. i tell the story about my mom. my dad died when i was in my last year of law school. my mom came to visit me and do all the things that tours do when they go to washington but i took her to the monuments in the museum but i also took her to
the oval office. i wanted to show this woman about 5 feet nothing to show her what i accomplished because of her sacrifices and the sacrifices of my father. when i was a boy and i'm sure this is a ritual that many of you know i wanted to have breakfast with my dad so my mom would wake me up so i could have wrecked this with my dad when i was a little boy. we always had the same thing for breakfast which was eggs and tortillas. my mom would make the same lunch for my dad, beans and tortillas. this was our day the ritual. fast-forward to d.c. i took my mom to the oval office and on her last day of her visit she was up making breakfast for me. just like she had done every day for my dad. i wasn't wearing blue jeans and a hard hat going to construction site like my father. i had my suit on and i was going to the white house to devise the
most powerful person in the world. i would take her to the cotton filter the cotton fields where she's to pick cotton as a young girl to the oval office. that's an american story. >> the author speaking after you i believe is talking about immigration which is the subject of her book and this has been a topic of conversation to put a wildly in this current presidential race. talk about immigration policy. elaborate in a book. >> i wrote a book about it. it probably sold two copies, the my wife and my mom. i am a hispanic from a border state and the chief law enforcement which is very
consistent with the politics of immigration which is where an nation of immigrants that but we are also a nation of laws. sometimes we have to accommodate these two principles that are unique. in this book i do talk about the things that i would urge congress to consider. i do believe we need immigration reform one that is permanent and one that only the congress and the president can give us. one that does have separate work place enforcement one that recognizes we are a nation of immigrants and we are compassionate and there have to be exceptions for extraordinary circumstances. what do we do about the people that are brought here by children? these are all very complicated issues and i get it. i think 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. i know you will hear a lot more about immigration from other speakers and i think it's an important topic. i'd like to see the candidates speak more about it, presidential candidates i mean but hopefully with the election of the next president we will make some progress. a good immigration policy is going to help our economy and it's also going to help secure our borders. >> that may give you some of the questions we have gotten from the people in the audience. did president bush reviewed the book before it's published? >> interesting he came to nashville this spring and speaking at an event in before the event becky and i had one of our sons spend some time with him. of course the book was getting ready to come out. we asked him, do you want to read this book?
he said no. now there could be two reasons. [laughter] the first is he trusts me. the second reason is he's been out of office for a while. a lot has been written about the bush presidency and he probably thought what else could he said negative about me? what could al say that could possibly hurt may? you you'll have to ask him quite frankly. >> your book is titled "true faith and allegiance" and you speak about your faith and how it impacted your public service. >> these jobs are so difficult and oftentimes life hangs in the bounce with recommendations on executions and certainly in decisions relating to sending young men and women into battle. i believe you need to have faith and a higher power in decisions that are much bigger than yourself and these positions
oftentimes the decisions are much bigger than yourself. for that reason when i look at someone who could a president or wants to be president i think someone who believes in god and the power of prayer is very important. for me having that belief in god and praying about decisions that i had to make in recommendations to the governor was very important. president bush is fairly private in terms of prayer in things like that. they were very difficult moments in quiet moments when i'd simply say i have to go and pray about this. 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 unnecsa on the other hand when someone votes that shouldn't be voting i do care very much about making the integrity of the voting process whether that we have the level of fraud that some people talk about i will leave that for the experts to answer. >> what does the f. v. i going to do?
[laughter] >> about what? >> you really should get a television. >> listen i am disappointed. i think people are saying negative things about the fbi and the department of justice and the a.g. and the never a good thing that i'm hopeful all this will get straightened out and the leadership will be applied in the department which includes the f. the eye and we get to the right outcome. i will just say i've been somewhat surprised and puzzled that some of these incidents that happened during this election cycle in connection with the investigation that apparently are ongoing.
>> we all know where we were on 9/11. so talk about 9/11. >> i look at the ages and most of you look like you are a mature age and all of you have the memory of that day. we all have a 9/11 day. when we first heard what was going on. it's the same airport that american 77 took off from within the hour that crashed into the pentagon and killing everyone on board. i was giving a speech to a group of government lawyers and when i got to the hotel but first our was hit. the initial reporting was it's just a tragic accident today
give my speech and by the time i finished the second tower has been hit and i'm told i have to get back to washington as soon as i can. by the time i get to the gate, i'm not stranded him in norfolk virginia and i feel like i need to get back to my post at the white house. 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. >> final comments. >> final comments. i just want to say because my wife is here and i talk about this in the book and i think this will be reflected in the book and that is the importance of family and supportive family. i could not have done what i did without the support of my family and i talk about the difficult times of winter in washington and how it affected my family. becky was always there for maybe she was a rock and i'm very grateful for the servers that she provided and i'm also grateful for the opportunity provided to some like me and grateful to george w. bush and also to work with people like clay johnson and other dedicated individuals who care a lot about america and work everyday to do the right thing. >> al, thank you so much for being here. [applause] thank you all for coming. the signing tent is right down here.