Mr. Gonzales, 53 years old, doesn’t have a publisher for his book. He said he is writing it if only “for my sons, so at least they know the story.” -Wall Street Journal, December 31, 2008
The Honorable Alberto Gonzales
Dear Mr. Gonzales:
Thank you so much for submitting your manuscript of Yes, Mr. President! Sadly, the bosses here at Conservative Publishing Ltd. have asked me to tell you that we’re going to pass on the book. It seems the publishing market is glutted with memoirists that fit your general profile: Fiftysomething, highly educated, and an underemployed former official of the Bush administration.
However, I believe that with some not-insignificant changes in theme and tone, we could turn even a disgraced attorney general into the greatest memoirist since—I hope I’m not stepping out of line here!—Scott McClellan. I’ve taken the liberty of enclosing some new angles for Yes, Mr. President!, along with proposed titles:
- Hypothetical confession: If I Ignored the Constitution, Politicized the Justice Department, and Repeatedly Lied to Congress. In your manuscript, you made it clear that you didn’t do anything wrong. But as O.J. Simpson proved, a confession per se isn’t always the way to go. Why not merely float the notion of high crimes? “If I did it, I’d have skipped the hearing and put the detainee on a secret flight to Egypt, where I would have been fully aware that he would be tortured.”
- Anti-Bush Screed: Bushie Dearest. Nothing gets attention like betrayal. And although you’ve been unwilling to criticize the Decider’s conduct as president, your prior position as White House counsel might enable you to shed some light on his prior indiscretions. Just thinking out loud here: were there other DUI arrests, fistfights with Harriet Miers, a shooting accident of his own? I’m aware that violating attorney-client privilege can cause problems with local bar associations. But given your difficulties finding law-firm work this might not prove a problem.
- Children’s Title: The Little Attorney General Who Could. Why should the Gonzales children be your only school-age readers? What about other people’s children? This book may help re-establish your reputation with a new generation of readers: “Little Al drove as fast as he could. He had to beat that mean Mr. Comey to the hospital! If he couldn’t get Old Man Ashcroft to sign the paper, the terrorists would win...”
- Recovery Memoir: How I Fought Cancer, Paralysis, Illiteracy, Drugs, Restless Leg Syndrome, and Osama bin Laden. Have you suffered from any of the above conditions? Other maladies? If so, a stirring tale of personal resilience could be just the thing to turn your poll numbers around. If not, well, that doesn’t necessarily have to stop your from penning a redemption narrative anyway. (Incidentally, do you know anything about the Holocaust?)
- Self-Help Book: The Art of Forgetting: How to Forget Anything, Anytime, Anywhere. At the moment where aging baby boomers are starting to worry about their memories, your “senior moments” in front of Congress could represent a savvy bit of counterprogramming. This book would begin with the April 19, 2007, congressional hearings where you stated 71 times that you couldn’t remember key portions of the U.S. Attorney firings. Then you could lay out some of your secrets to maintaining such an imperfect memory.
- Obama Paean: Yes, I Could. Why should David Axelrod and Obama’s own message of hope get all the credit for November’s stunning victory? And why should only liberals get royalties for books commemorating the event? Surely your tenure as attorney general contributed a bit—if not a lot—to the making of our 44th president. “Obama promised to change things,” you might declare on Page One. “I was what needed to change.”
I hope some of these ideas prove appealing. One final question, Mr. Gonzales: Have you ever had a family dog that died? I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask!
Michael Schaffer is a writer in Philadelphia. One Nation Under Dog, his book about petmania, the pet industry, and what modern petkeeping says about modern America, will be published by Henry Holt in April.