President George W. Bush named White House Counsel and former Texas Supreme Court Justice Alberto Gonzales to succeed John Ashcroft as U.S. Attorney General Wednesday afternoon. If approved by the Senate, Mr. Gonzales would become the first Hispanic to serve as the nation's top law enforcement official.
"His sharp intellect and sound judgement have helped shape our policies in the war on terror – policies designed to protect the security of all Americans, while protecting the rights of all Americans," President Bush said in making the announcement.
Raised in Houston, the 49-year-old Mr. Gonzales rose to prominence after being appointed Chief Counsel and Secretary of State of Texas by then-Governor Bush. Mr. Gonzales ultimately landed a seat on the Texas Supreme Court, before being named Chief Counsel of the Bush Administration in January 2001.
Early in his appointment, Mr. Gonzales made waves in the administration by reportedly disagreeing with conservative hard-liners on major social issues including affirmative action and abortion.
In the Supreme Court's review of two lawsuits surrounding affirmative-action plans at the University of Michigan last year, Mr. Gonzales argued the White House position of opposing affirmative-action programs, while not pushing to end affirmative action altogether. Ultimately, the high court upheld the practice of affirmative action at the University of Michigan Law School, but struck down a plan giving Hispanics and other underrepresented minorities extra points toward undergraduate admission.
On the issue of abortion, according to a 2003 CNN report, conservatives openly expressed worries that President Bush would appoint Mr. Gonzales to the Supreme Court, where he would implement his "moderate to liberal views on abortion rights, particularly on the issue of parental consent."
The announcement of Mr. Gonzales' nomination to Attorney General drew enthusiasm from Hispanic advocacy and civil rights organizations including The National Council of La Raza.
"We are very encouraged by the Gonzales nomination. We previously criticized the Bush Administration for not having an Hispanic in the cabinet since the departure of former HUD secretary, now senator-elect, Mel Martinez," said Janet Murguia, NCLR's executive director. "We are pleased that one of the first acts since the president's re-election both rectifies that situation and marks an historic milestone for the Latino community." RELATED NEWS: •Bush Taps Gonzales for Attorney General
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