Former Attorney General Makes the Mistake of Talking

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, August 12, 2009

In early July, when last we checked in with former attorney general Alberto "Fredo" Gonzales, he had finally landed a job at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. That -- assuming he's not indicted by special prosecutor Nora Dannehy, who's investigating the firing of those U.S. attorneys -- would be the end of his troubles, we figured.

But no. First, a small group of TTU faculty members -- 74 out of some 1,200-plus full-timers -- circulated a petition protesting the hiring, saying that Gonzales's "years in the White House were characterized by conduct which . . . demonstrated significant ethical failings."

Gonzalez, who resigned two years ago this month in part over the U.S. attorneys matter, has also been much criticized for his statements about the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program. But TTU Chancellor Kent Hance, a former Democratic House member (he later switched parties), said he would not change his mind.

Hance said he had not hired Gonzales -- salary $100,000 a year -- to be a faculty member but rather to recruit and retain minority students. The visiting professorship was arranged afterward, he said, according to the Associated Press, but Gonzales would be welcome to continue teaching beyond that year.

That whole flap faded. And Gonzales is set to start teaching his course on issues confronting the Obama administration Aug. 31.

So that's that.

But no. Inexplicably, Gonzales did a please-let-me-set-my-hair-on-fire interview that appeared in the New York Times Magazine on Sunday in which he acknowledged that he hadn't had any job offers from law firms because of tough economic times and because firms "want to make sure that the investigations are complete and there is no finding of wrongdoing before they make a hiring decision."

Why did he suddenly quit as attorney general? "I'm in the process of writing a book," Gonzales said, "and I'll get into greater detail on some of those reasons." But he has no publisher.

Does he still talk his old buddy from Texas days, former president George W. Bush? "I have not spoken with the president since he left office," Gonzalez said.

Been tempted to call? After all, last fall, Bush gathered up some of the old Texas gang, including Gonzales, former White House political adviser Karl Rove, then-Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and former White House adviser and undersecretary of state Karen Hughes for a day touring Gettysburg. And that group was on the last flight home Jan. 20 when Bush left Washington for Texas.

"I do, of course, think about our time together," Gonzalez said, "and there are times when I think about doing that. But listen, I know that he has his life to live. I've got challenges and my life to live as well."

Besides, Bush's book, tentatively titled "Decision Points," has gotten him a reported $7 million advance.

Asked if he's approached Bush or Dick Cheney for help with his legal bills, Gonzales said: "I have not asked them personally." Interesting caveat.

In Lubbock on Monday, Gonzales told the Associated Press he opposed a possible Justice Department investigation into CIA interrogation techniques after 9/11, saying this would hamper anti-terrorism efforts.

Note to file: Send e-mail to Fredo -- no more interviews.

Team Af-Pak

It's waiting-list-only for today's rollout of the all-star, interagency team assembled by Richard Holbrooke, special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, in a gathering sponsored by the Center for American Progress and moderated by CAP chief executive John Podesta, recently back from that trip with former president Bill Clinton to North Korea.

Sixteen top members of the team -- including New York University Afghanistan expert Barnett Rubin, British diplomat Jane Marriott, Tufts University Pakistan expert Vali Nasr and folks from the Agency for International Development, Treasury and Agriculture -- will be on hand for a discussion of the issues. Most every key member will be there except for the intelligence guy. Of course, he might be. You won't know.

The event won't be at CAP but at the newly remodeled St. Regis Hotel, the D.C. equivalent of the Serena Hotel in Kabul.

Surreal World

Best job posting of the week. From U.S. Vacancies Bulletin, which deals with openings on the Hill.

"Legislative Assistant -- Congresswoman [Virginia] Brown-Waite (R-Fla.) seeks a highly motivated individual with exceptional writing, communication and organizational skills to handle a variety of issues including Homeland Security and Judiciary. Responsibilities will include writing legislative mail, formulating and tracking legislative proposals, and briefing the Congresswoman on a daily basis. Successful applicants will have a strong understanding of the legislative process, a knack for research, well developed critical thinking skills, and patience. To apply, please submit your resume, a cover letter, and write an essay explaining what you would do to get on the Real World, D.C."

That's the MTV reality television show now filming in the District.

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