The conservative columnist actually sets out in the right direction with her column headlined:
It's Not Fair To Casually Call People Racist
The point seem blindingly obvious, but it's one that very few media people have been willing to make in the last seven days. But rather than take Limbaugh and Gingrich to task for their hateful "racist" rhetoric, Charen falls into the same predictable trap that every other Beltway player has and dutifully plays dumb about Sotomayor's "Latin woman" quote.
But this was the passage that really jumped out at me:
Nevertheless, the instant labeling of the woman, based on one unwise remark, is hardly fair. If Democrats are learning this now, that's excellent news. One hopes they will remember this discovery when the wheel turns and a Republican nominee is before the Senate. Certainly they didn't seem to get it as recently as 2002, when President Bush nominated Judge Charles Pickering to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
A-ha! Charen found an example from the recent past when a Republican president nominated a judge to the federal bench and Democrats casually, and incorrectly, labeled the judge a racist!
Slight problem: That's not what happened because that's not what Democrats did. At least Charen can't cite a single example of any Democrat ever calling Judge Pickering a "racist." (If she could, I assume Charen would have included the quote in her column.)
It's true there was a very heated debate about Pickering's civil rights record on the bench; a record that stretched back many, many years. But the Democratic attacks on Pickering were not built around a single sentence from a speech, the way the "racist" assault is being waged against Sotomayor and a speech she made in 2001. The concerns Democrats had about Pickering were based on his judicial record. Plus, Democrats never called Pickering a racist, the way right-wing pundits are denouncing Sotomayor.
So basically, there's no comparison between the two nominations, but Charen pretends there is.