Who is the publicist for Alberto Gonzales? Shouldn’t this person have warned the former attorney general about the perils of being interviewed by Deborah Solomon, the snarky, cranky, exceedingly direct interviewer for the New York Times Magazine? She’s not known for tossing softballs at her subjects.
To his credit, Gonzales didn’t shy away from the challenge. Read about the interview from yesterday’s Times, after the jump.
The interview started innocently enough. Solomon asked Gonzales about Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Gonzales said: “This is obviously a proud and historic moment for all Hispanics.”
It was a safe, savvy response. Gonzales is one wise Latino.
But Solomon quickly turned to tougher stuff:
Some 70 professors at Texas Tech have signed a petition that protests your appointment and cites your “ethical failings,” including misleading Congress abut the firing of nine federal prosecutors. What will you tell your students about that?
All the inspector-general investigations, they’re now over with. They found that I had not engaged in any criminal wrongdoing.
I am not a crook. It’s not the most reassuring answer ever, but it’s accurate. At least for now:
Isn’t there still an ongoing investigation by a special prosecutor who was appointed last year to look into the removal of the attorneys?
I wish I could comment on that, but because it’s an ongoing investigation, I cannot.
We’re sure it pained Gonzales not to talk about that ongoing investigation. This was probably around the time he started wondering why he agreed to do this interview.
Would you agree that your reputation was damaged by your service as attorney general?
It has had an effect, a negative effect, no question about it, and at times it makes me angry because it is undeserved. But I don’t want to sound like I am whining. At the end of the day, I’ve been the attorney general of the United States. It’s a remarkable privilege, and I stand behind my service.
Deborah Solomon was not pulling her punches. Gonzales gave as good a response as possible, one that harks back to that memorable line from his AG resignation speech: “Even my worst days as Attorney General have been better than my father’s best days.”
Then the discussion shifted towards Alberto Gonzales’s job prospects (a subject we’ve covered closely):
Has any law firm offered you a job since you left the White House?
Listen, I’ve had some interest and I’ve had some discussions, but there has been no offer made. In a tough economic climate, I can understand why a company or a firm would want to make sure that the investigations are complete and there is no finding of wrongdoing before they make a hiring decision.
At this point the reader starts to feel bad for Gonzales (who is more of a Biglaw client than partner these days). And then:
Have you asked Bush or Cheney to help defray your legal bills?
I have not asked them personally.
I think you should ask them. They got you into this pickle. Shouldn’t they help get you out?
Listen, I have a group of supporters that are helping me fund-raise. They’re making decisions about how to do this successfully.
We agree with Solomon. Judge Gonzales, talk to Dick Cheney. He still has all those Halliburton millions, which make whatever you saved from your days as a Vinson & Elkins partner look like a pittance.
Why, exactly, did you suddenly resign as attorney general?
I’m in the process of writing a book, and I’ll get into greater detail on some of those reasons.
Nice try, Debbie. Did you really expect AlGo to break down mid-interview and tell you all his dirty deeds? Sorry — he’s saving it for his book (which has not yet found a publisher).
Solomon and Gonzales closed the interview on a strangely poignant note:
Do you still talk to President Bush?
I have not spoken with the president since he left office.
Have you ever been tempted to pick up the phone and say hi to him?
I do, of course, think about our time together, 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.
If you come across this interview, Mr. President, please pick up the phone and give your old friend Al a call. He’s already publicly stated that he won’t hit you up for help with his legal bills — and he could clearly use a friend right now.
The Counselor [New York Times Magazine]