"We grow small trying to be great."
- Eli Stanley Jones
How they loved his story. It had, after all, the kind of humble origins that tended to be missing from most of their political associates. And because he was an ethnic minority, his educational and economic ascent presented a lovely, inspiring narrative. Alberto Gonzales needed only to be discovered. And, eventually, he was.
There was no reason not to expect Gonzales to soar. His humble background began in Humble, Texas, where he was raised in a home of less than a thousand square feet with a half dozen siblings. Eventually, he graduated from Harvard Law School and became a partner with Vinson and Elkins, one of Texas' most prestigious law firms. And that's where Karl rove found him.
It's impossible to know if there was something broken inside Gonzales from the beginning or if the amorality of the people who surrounded him in the Bush circle somehow darkened his bright American rise. All of his teachers at Rice University said he was a fine student and he had also served his country in the Air Force before turning to higher education. But when he joined the Bush team and became general counsel to the then governor of Texas, the moral arc of Alberto Gonzales' narrative began bending away from justice.
Externally, what the public knew about Gonzales presented inspiration for anyone who struggled with a background of modest means. Rove knew this. Gonzales was a poster boy for a future GOP presidential candidate who could point with pride to the involvement of a minority in a key position in his administration. And Gonzales cannot be faulted for seeing opportunity, the kind which his own construction worker father never knew. But he must have wanted success so badly that he was willing to do whatever was needed to help Bush, regardless of whether it was right or wrong.
He first surfaced in a public way when he asked a Travis County judge in Austin to dismiss Mr. Bush from jury duty on a drunk driving case. The Texas governor had left out information on his juror questionnaire about his own arrest for DUI. Gonzales argued with the judge that Bush ought to be dismissed because there was a chance of a conflict if the governor were to be asked to pardon the person who might be convicted in the case. Of course, there is no record of any such thing ever happening in the history of the Texas Republic, DUI pardons don't make it to the governor's desk. But the legal ploy worked. Bush was taken out of the jury pool and his personal DUI secret went undisclosed until the final days of his first presidential campaign. It is not torturing the facts to suggest he might have never made it to the White House if Gonzales had not effectively kept the DUI information from the public.
Gonzales became the Texas Secretary of State by Bush appointment, usually an anteroom to a higher political profile, and then was put on the State Supreme Court, eventually winning election to the seat in 2000, which completed the elimination of all Democrats from statewide office in Texas. But his greatest reward for serving Bush and Rove did not come until he was named US Attorney General and became the highest ranking Hispanic to ever serve in the federal government.
By then, however, he was either trained, or had surrendered whatever he may have once been. Gonzales counseled the president that the Geneva Conventions were "quaint," corrupted the Department of Justice by making it political in the purge of US attorneys who did not act sufficiently conservative or Republican, and seemingly made no effort to protect American citizens from being spied on by their own government. His political party, the GOP, manages to ignore the fact that the Attorney General's own grandparents had no legal immigration documents and Gonzales conveniently ignores the fact that he is part of a political effort to make sure no one else gets the opportunities he got from a family determined to get to America.
There are too many tragedies manifest in the Gonzales' story to begin to even understand their implications. But a man who starts his education and professional life with a path designed to respect the truth and the law simply ought not to have ended this way. He was supposed to inspire and honor and protect important principles that go way beyond the ambitions of George W. Bush and Karl Rove. Instead, he became a kind of legal sheep herder for the strange political beasts being raised by Bush and Rove.
There has been little or no justice in anything Alberto Gonzales has ever done; except resign.