Santorum backtracks on McCain criticism
May 18th, 2011
10:41 AM ET
3 years ago

Santorum backtracks on McCain criticism

Washington (CNN) – Probable Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum expressed his respect for Sen. John McCain's military service Wednesday after saying McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner during the Vietnam War, "doesn't understand how enhanced interrogation works."

During an interview on the Hugh Hewitt radio show Monday, Santorum said enhanced interrogation aided the United States in its capture of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.


"Everything I've read shows that we would not have gotten this information as to who this man was if it had not been gotten information from people who were subject to enhanced interrogation," Santorum said. "So this idea that we didn't ask that question while Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was being waterboarded, he doesn't understand how enhanced interrogation works. I mean, you break somebody, and after they're broken, they become cooperative. And that's when we got this information."

He later said he meant no disrespect to the former GOP presidential nominee.

"I disagree with Senator McCain's view that the enhanced interrogation techniques used on a select few high-value terrorist detainees were unsuccessful nor do I believe they amounted to torture," Santorum said in a statement Wednesday. "For anyone to infer my disagreement with Senator McCain's policy position lessens my respect for his service to our country and all he had to endure is outrageous and unfortunate."

In the wake of the U.S. assault on the bin Laden compound in Pakistan, the Arizona senator has said the terrorist leader's death should not justify techniques like waterboarding, that he believes do not help in combating terrorism.

In a Washington Post op-ed last week, McCain said waterboarding has no place in American interrogation policies.

When asked about Santorum's comments, McCain spokesman Brooke Buchanan replied, "Who?"

And when questioned about Santorum's slight backtrack, Buchanan said "Senator McCain appreciates his comments and considers the matter closed."

Santorum and McCain clashed in the Senate, most notably over McCain's bill to reform campaign finance laws. During the 2008 presidential election Santorum, who endorsed then presidential candidate Mitt Romney, questioned whether McCain had the disposition to be president in an automated phone call used by the Romney campaign on Super Tuesday.

"As a conservative, I don't agree with McCain on many issues and I don't think he has the temperament and leadership ability to move the country in the right direction," Santorum said in the call.

– CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash contributed to this report


Filed under: 2012 • John McCain • Osama bin Laden • Rick Santorum
soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. Ric in PA.

    How dumb do you need to be to say that a POW for 5.5 years doesn't know anything about interrogation?? We voted this idiot out in PA, and I see he hasn't gotten any smarter since that election. AND he never served in the military to boot. The sooner this twerp decides to give it up, the better.

    May 18, 2011 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  2. Joshua Ludd

    So, the Frothy Mix thinks someone who has actually been tortured as a prisoner of war doesn't understand "enhanced interrogation" which IS torture and has been known to be torture for literally centuries. Also... everything he has read says it came from waterboarding? Nope. The people who actually are in the loop say it didn't. Only folks not in the loop say it did.

    May 18, 2011 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  3. Sniffit

    "Everything I've read shows that we would not have gotten this information as to who this man was if it had not been gotten information from people who were subject to enhanced interrogation,"

    He's going to give Jaberwocky Barbie a run for his money if he keeps going with word salad like that. That's a giant sentence FAIL right there. Someone should mail him some literature that's not written by right wing lunatics...maybe a psych text book or a study or two...something from or discussing the myriad studies proving torture doesn't produce truth.

    May 18, 2011 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  4. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    Santorum, like the rest of what was once a great Republican Party doesn't even know anything about the people in his party.
    It would be funny if it wasn't so pathetic.
    McCain doesn't know anything about "enhanced interrogation?" REALLY?

    How can one apologize for that kind of stupidity?

    May 18, 2011 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  5. rhumba

    "Everything I've read shows that we would not have gotten this information as to who this man was if it had not been gotten information from people who were subject to enhanced interrogation," Santorum said.

    Unfortunately, Santorum probably hasn't read anything that's not on a right wing blog or on FOX news. He completely ignores those sources that say KSM lied about the courier's name and methods. He sticks with the party line, showing no willingness to even consider another opinion. This is not a man who should even be considered for the presidency.

    May 18, 2011 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  6. indydave

    "Everything I've read shows that we would not have gotten this information as to who this man was if it had not been gotten information from people who were subject to enhanced interrogation," Santorum said.

    So Santorum's got himself in a froth over McCain's comments? Who do ya think people will trust, bunkie? Who do you think has a more realistic perspective on torture and interrogation techniques – a dude who was himself a POW for how many years – or an ivory-tower Dominionist zealot who apparently listens to Fox news and very little else, was voted (in 2000 or so, by a group of congressional pages, IIRC) as the "dumbest" member of Congress, and who can't even clear much more than a third of the votes in an election in his home state? This dude does not deserve any sort of elected office.

    May 18, 2011 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  7. Paul1st

    Santorum is begging us to add a new dimension to the political spectrum. We traditionally have Right vs. Left. Now we need to add Behind to accommodate Santorum's views. He must have limited himself to Palin's reading list since "everything he has read" is even more limited. (I'll give him the benefit of the doubt that he can read.) The very suggestion that McCain could have the crap beat out of him year after year and not understand how enhanced interrogation works is ludicrous. Is Santorum saying that McCain would have cooperated had the Vietnamese used "enhanced" tactics? Santorum should not be given a public forum. We can fully expect him to take to burning holy books next in an effort to appear relevant and connect to "his base".

    May 18, 2011 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  8. sbp

    Don't assume that because all of these GOP hopefuls sound like ignorant clowns, that they can't or won't win. Remember, everyone knew W. was a party-boy simpleton with a deer-in-the-headlights stare, but he somehow managed to win the GOP primary before subjecting us to 8 years as POTUS.

    May 18, 2011 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  9. bob

    This is the guy who said in the Republican debate that the most important thing is social values. Then when asked about Gingrich's marital adventures said that God forgives. Also lost Pennsylvania senatorial election by a landslide and dismissed it as an aberration. He is a classic hypocrite. Republicans who follow him are self-destructive.

    May 18, 2011 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  10. charlie888888

    I am almost sure the GOP is deliberately parading this bunch of clowns in order to make their eventual candidate reasonable and intelligent in comparison. Even Bush 2 would look good in this cast.

    May 18, 2011 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  11. Andy Botwin

    It's hard to keep up with all these Republicans apologizing to other Republicans that they just devoured.

    As far as 'enhanced interrogation' (a.k.a. 'torture') techniques, Santorum is an expert. He's been torturing us with his right wing whack job rhetoric for years.

    May 18, 2011 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  12. ITALIAN NONNO

    These right wing zealots, so called "Christians" remind me of the ancient Romans,..when they used to get their jollies by feeding the Christians to the lions in the arenas... and we all know what eventually happened to the Roman Empire.

    May 18, 2011 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  13. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    "Everything I've read shows that we would not have gotten this information as to who this man was if it had not been gotten information from people who were subject to enhanced interrogation,"
    -------------------------------------------------–
    I speak 4 languages. WTF did he say?!

    May 18, 2011 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  14. Lynne

    And the guy that says being water boarded over 100 times doesn't amount to torture and doesn't think someone that was a POW in Vietnam for 5+ years and tortured during all of that time understands "enhanced interrogation" wants to be our president? REALLY???? When he has experienced one or the other and can comment from actual experience then I will consider listening to this disrespectful fool! McCain is not my favorite politician, but having been raised in a military family and had the opportunity to welcome home the first round of POW's from Vietnam I respect his service and what he went through.....Santorum obviously doesn't respect either!

    May 18, 2011 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  15. George(Toronto)

    Rick Santorum doesn't think waterboarding is torture, then let's put him and other such believers to the test. Have them go and be waterboarded and see how they like it. I am constantly amazed at the lack of knowledge on the part of supposedly educated people that have no idea what torture is all about. John McCain lived this horror of war and it's about time people started to listen and more importantly learn something. We might be a lot better off going forward.

    May 18, 2011 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  16. Marjee123

    Guess someone told ricky boy they would be glad to show him some of the techniques they used on McCain while he was in captivity. thinking it over little old ricky thought it over. Another macca moment.

    May 18, 2011 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  17. Kevin

    That was hardly backtracking. He still owes McCain an apology. This is exactly the reason incumbent Santorum was defeated by 18% vote in my home state of Pennsylvania. Fired as a sitting senator and he wants to be president? He's a profound imbecile.

    May 18, 2011 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  18. Beverly - NYC

    So in Rick's world someone who was a POW for 5 years to a brutal regime doesn't understand torture. See what happens when you're fed a constant diet of Fox news mis-information, your brain gets stuck on stupid. Rick the next time you're in DC introduce yourself to Senator McCain and ask him about torture.

    May 18, 2011 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
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