By Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Special to CNN
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SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- In the flap over the ousted U.S. attorneys, Alberto Gonzales has been hoisted up as a political piñata.
The nation's first Hispanic attorney general is being pressured to resign by -- pick 'em -- Democrats trying to make hay, an elite media that long opposed him, civil libertarians who condemn administration policy on detainees and wiretaps, conservatives who think Gonzales is too liberal, and liberals who think he's too conservative.
The list even includes a pair of immigrant-baiting members of Congress -- Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-California and Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colorado -- who fell out with Gonzales over the prosecution of two ex-border patrol agents.
Leading this lynch mob are white liberals who resent Gonzales because they can't claim the credit for his life's accomplishments and because they can't get him to curtsy. Why should he? Gonzales doesn't owe them a damn thing.
Democratic politicians love posing with mariachis as they nibble chips and salsa on Cinco De Mayo. But it was a Republican -- George W. Bush -- who made history by nominating a Hispanic to serve as attorney general.
Gonzales' persecutors are blind with rage, or maybe just blind. Surely they see that the push to dump the U.S. attorneys came from White House political adviser Karl Rove.
The attorney general does have one person in his corner. President Bush came out swinging Tuesday, insisting that Gonzales has his support and warning Democrats not to go on "a partisan fishing expedition aimed at honorable public servants."
I've interviewed Gonzales twice since he became attorney general. During the last interview, which took place three weeks ago in San Diego -- that is, before the controversy erupted -- I asked about the firings of the U.S. attorneys. He told me what he has told others: It was about performance.
"I have an obligation...to ensure that we have the best people we can have in here," he said. "All I will say is that the decisions that were made...were based upon performance, and there are many factors that go into that."
An avid baseball fan, Gonzales even pitched an analogy. "What I care about is -- are we trading up?"
As a political columnist, I cover liars for a living. And yet, I'd say Gonzales is pretty much as advertised by his old friend, President Bush: an honorable public servant.
He comes across as a straight shooter. What you see is what you get. He is also human, and he makes mistakes.
It may be that he made a whopper here in trusting his No. 2 not to hand over the hiring and firing of U.S. attorneys to a political hack like Rove. But then, Gonzales' critics aren't after the truth. They're after him.
Well, if they succeed in running him off without a fair hearing, many Hispanics won't forget the shoddy treatment afforded this grandson of Mexican immigrants. You watch. Democrats will have to intensify their efforts to win Hispanic votes in the 2008 elections. And there's not that much chips and salsa on the planet.
Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a member of the editorial board of The San Diego Union-Tribune and a nationally syndicated columnist. You can read his column here.
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