This story is over 5 years old.


Here's How Conservatives Freaked Out Over the CIA Torture Report

In the week after the Senate released its report on the CIA's enhanced interrogation tactics, Dick Cheney and other neocons were spinning their wheels to defend the torture program.
Screenshot via Fox News

​It's been nearly a week since the Senate Intelligence Committee release​d its report on the CIA's enhanced interrogation program, and predictably, neocons have not been happy. Like the climax of any halfway decent Jerry Springer episode, the 500-page executive summary revealed that the government lied​ a lot, to everyone. In no uncertain terms, it explained how intelligence officials were living a double life in terms of what they told the White House, Congress, and everybody else, and what they actually did.


Besides peddling some gross inaccuracies, intelligence officials were engaging some pretty gross torture tactics. No one who read the report will ever be able to forget the term "r​ectal feeding." Prisoners were made to stand on broken feet and deprived of sleep for up to 180 hours. They were also kept in a cell that the report describes as a "dungeon" so cold, one detainee died of hypothermia.

Everyone already knew the interrogation program was awful. But still, many people were glad—although sickened—to learn the grisly details. Republican war hawks, on the other hand, have spent the past six days slamming the report, arguing that its release was ​political and potentially deadly to American​s overseas. They said its timing was a calculated move by outgoing Democrats to take one last swing at the Bush administration before the GOP takes over the Senate. They also thought the details would lead to anti-American sentiment, possibly driving attacks against American embassies and fueling the ranks of the Islamic State and other terrorist groups.

Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein and the fellow Dems in her committee are about to get ousted from Congress, so it was kind of now or never. And people who hate us already kinda knew we were torturing people. Basically, those two reasons for freaking out over the report don't hold much water. Still, it's important to give credit to Republicans who at least tried to articulate arguments against the report. Others simply lost their minds and spewed word salad on national TV. So, let's examine how conservatives felt about releasing the report. Here's a roundup of their thoughts, ranging from reasonable to not at all reasonable.


Dick Cheney
The former Vice President and ornery architect of the interrogation program has predictably been spinning out since before the report was released. When it finally became public, he went on Fox News to call the report "full of ​crap." "The CIA did one hell of a job and they deserve our gratitude," he went on. Later, two ABC reporters analyzed the appearance, calling it "vintage Cheney" and "classic Cheney." It was kind of weird, like a couple of siblings describing their alcoholic relative who shows up for Thanksgiving and flips over the table in a drunken rage as "classic Uncle Dan."

Cheney was at it again yesterday, in an ​appearance on Meet the Press, where he defended himself again, saying, "I would do it again in a minute." He refu​sed to acknowledge that keeping someone in a coffin-shaped box for 11 hours was torture, and instead just denied everything that the report ostensibly revealed, even as host Chuck Todd read direct quotes from it.

John McCain
The Arizona Republican is not the biggest fan of torture, given that he's been subjected to it. As such, McCain was one of the few Republicans to ​praise the release of the report. He acknowledged it's a scourge for our international reputation, but also that we already kinda fucked up that up, so who cares, really. I mean, it's pretty clear that everyone knows what waterboarding is if it's been given a l​itany of sexual meanings by teenagers on the internet.


"Will the reports released cause outrage that will lead to violence in some parts of the Muslim world?" he a​sked in a passionate speech on the Senate floor, according to CNN. "Yes, I suppose that's possible…perhaps likely." He added the other Republicans were just mad about the report saying torture being ineffective, considering we justified these practices by calling them necessary. Turns out they just gave us bad info. Oops!

Rush Limbaugh
Unsurprisingly, Rush Limbaugh ​​weighed in with ​a conspiracy theory,​ claiming that Democrats wanted to stir up a bunch of shit with the report at the expense of national security. The talk show host claimed the goal was to make Cheney and his cohorts look "mean," drawing a strange comparison to the TV show Madame Secretary, in which a teenager grapples with a politician mom who presided over torture. "There's only one purpose for this, and that is to do damage to this country, and that is to harm somehow the image of this country," Limbaugh told listeners who tuned in to his show last week. In this metaphor, America is one big, mean mom.

"When the Republicans are in control, the Democrats want as much chaos as they can manufacture," Limbaugh ranted on. "The Republicans are gonna control the Senate, they're gonna control the House, and the Democrats want as much chaos going on here and around the world as they can get." Surprisingly, this was actually relatively low on the crazy spectrum, particularly given that Rush Limbaugh is a man paid to say crazy things.


Illinois Senator Mark Kirk
According to the Republican senator from Illinois, the Senate Intelligence Committee members are behaving like "lit​tle zombies." Instead of a metaphor about a mean mom, he likened his political opponents to stage moms, wreaking havoc in the quest to establish their legacy. "They wanted so desperately to be relevant and they reached up from the political grave, like [Secretary of State John] Kerry, to do this harm to our troops overseas." This idea is relatively nuts coming from someone who isn't paid to stir up shit on talk radio, and who is usually pretty reasonable.

Fox News
While other Republicans variously claimed that people already knew the CIA was engaging in torture, or that letting the enemies know about the torture would fuel animosity towards the US, the hosts over at Fox News claimed that they simply didn't want to know what the intelligence agency was up to.

"I don't wanna know about it. I think people do nasty things in the dark, especially after a terrorist attack," correspondent Jesse Water​s said in a roundtable discussion on Fox's Outnumbered.

But it was Outnumbered's host, Andrea Tantaros, who absolutely devolved into patriotic babble. "The United States of America is awesome, we are awesome," she proclaimed. "But we've had this discussion. We've closed the book on it, and we've stopped doing it. And the reason they want to have this discussion is not to show how awesome we are. This administration wants to have this discussion to show us how we're not awesome."

Follow Allie Conti on ​Twitter.