Gonzales' Strides from Humble Texas Roots

Paul Burka of the magazine Texas Monthly talks with Alex Cohen about how Alberto Gonzales rose from a small town in Texas to become the nation's highest ranking Latino official.

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ALEX COHEN, host:

Back now with DAY TO DAY. Before Alberto Gonzales was U.S. attorney general, he served as the secretary of state in Texas. He also sat on the Texas Supreme Court.

Paul Burka is the executive editor of Texas Monthly magazine and he's been tracking the career of Alberto Gonzales since his days in Texas. He joins us now. Welcome to the program, Mr. Burka.

Mr. PAUL BURKA (Texas Monthly Magazine): Thanks, Alex.

COHEN: Things aren't looking too good for the Texas crew. First, you have Karl Rove resigning, now Alberto Gonzales. How are our folks taking this in Texas?

Mr. BURKA: You have to understand that the president's popularity rating is only marginally higher here than it is in the rest of the country. That's an astonishing thing because when he was governor, he was in the 80 percent range. But I think the Texans as Democrats and Republicans alike are disappointed in the administration.

It hasn't been as effective as people who liked the president had hoped, and you know, it's just, I think Alberto is another case of someone who went up there and ultimately was not successful. And the same thing happened to Rove. There's a little more dancing on the grave with Rove. I don't think that's true with Alberto because he did represent somebody who had pretty much come out of nowhere. And he was sort of marked for a stardom and he got there and then I think the big problem that he had was excessive loyalty.

He couldn't ever get beyond his loyalty to Bush to stop and examine a problem on the merits or, you know, whether something was right or wrong. And I think that's been the case with all the Bushies; the loyalty came back to bite them.

COHEN: Mr. Gonzales has talked a lot about, you know, coming from this somewhat dysfunctional family and that he mentioned today in a brief press conference that, you know, he did better than his dad could have ever done. Do you think he feels like he owed the president for helping bring him to a bigger and better place?

Mr. BURKA: He certainly felt that way - he was bound to have felt this enormous loyalty to Bush, who picked him out and basically built a resume that was very, very good - and Alberto Gonzales was mentioned at one time, not just attorney general, but as an appointee to the U.S. Supreme Court. And that if there hadn't been a lot of the controversy, that might've come to pass.

COHEN: Doesn't look too likely now.

Mr. BURKA: No.

COHEN: But what do you think will happen with Mr. Gonzales? Do you think he might head back to Texas and seek a career in either the public or private sector there?

Mr. BURKA: I can see on the one hand that he would get offers and on the other hand that he would want to get as far away from Washington as he could and return to Texas and be a force here. I don't think that he has any future as an elected official in Texas, if that's what he wanted to do. And I don't think that's his inclination anyway. So it's hard to know. I think when you've been at the pinnacle of power, the way he has, and lose it the way he did, it's going to take a while to recover, just as it took the elder George Bush a while to recover. It's not an easy thing.

COHEN: Paul Burka is the executive editor of Texas Monthly magazine. Thank you so much.

Mr. BURKA: Thank you.

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