The conservative movement has used the same racial tactics so many times now that I wonder when people will finally catch on and ignore them. Here is what they do: They find a woman or minority person with extremely conservative views. When the Democrats oppose that person based on their politics or past actions, the conservatives claim that they are doing it just because they hate women, blacks, Hispanics, etc. who don't agree with them. They never acknowledge that perhaps it is ideology; it is always about gender or race.
It may have started with Clarence Thomas. While Bush the First gets a little credit for nominating a black man, Thomas was not the most qualified candidate. When Democrats went after him, conservatives said it was because he was black. Likewise, Democrats (Harry Reid, for example) are branded as racists whenever they criticize Thomas' rather undistinguished record as a Supreme Court Justice.
Bush II has used this tactic more than ever. Take Condi Rice, for example. Now, I will grant that she has achieved a lot considering where she started. Her stint as National Security Advisor, however, is not the least bit impressive. She failed to comprehend the gravity of the Al Qaeda threat before 9/11, and she let the administration get into the quagmire of Iraq. What has she accomplished in the area of national security? She has been nothing if not Bush's yes-person. And for that alone, she is "promoted" to Secretary of State? Regardless, Republicans frame Democratic opposition as racist or sexist. I am certain that Democratic senators would have just as many questions if Bush nominated Donald Rumsfeld to Secretary of State. The administration has been too secretive for too long, so senators are asking questions at the only time they might get answers.
Republican racial tactics even extend to black conservative commentators. People like Neil Boortz are claiming that Democrats are upset about Armstrong Williams getting paid our tax dollars to promote No Child Left Behind just because he's a black conservative. I am sure Democrats would be just as upset if Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly got paid by the government, but the Bush administration probably used Williams because they could play racial politics to defend him if anyone found out about it. It's one thing for wealthy individuals like Richard "Cougar" Mellon Scaife to fund conservatives, but spending government money to do so is unconscionable. It is all the more heinous that $240,000 was spent to buy favorable coverage of a program that is miserably underfunded.
Next up, Alberto Gonzalez. He tried to duck the "torture memo" issue during confirmation hearings, but many of us saw through his denial. He is another undistinguished Bush loyalist whose best qualification to be Attorney General is that he is not as extreme as John Ashcroft. Rush Limbaugh will tell you that the Democrats hate Hispanics who aren't Democrats, and he'll bring up Miguel Estrada as another example (Estrada didn't even have any experience as a judge, and Bush nominated him to one of the most prominent courts in the country). But Rush won't tell you about Bush's 22 other Hispanic judge nominees that were approved by the Democrats.
I wouldn't dare to assert that Democrats are not racist; I believe that most people are racist to some degree. To accuse the Democrats of opposing conservative ideologues for racist reasons, however, is ridiculous. Regardless, it is standard practice for the Republican party.