During the Wednesday broadcast of his long-running radio talk show, Rush Limbaugh delved a little bit into television criticism. It seems that one of the shows he watches is “Madam Secretary,” in which Tea Leoni plays a tough, intelligent former CIA analyst who finds herself secretary of state. Many, including Rush, assume that the show is a set up for a Hillary for President campaign, though Leoni’s character seems to resemble Condi Rice more than the aspiring president.
Rush was musing about a newspaper article written by a foreign service student in which he expressed sympathy for a mugger who had relieved him of his valuables, the theory being that he had deserved to be robbed because of his “white privilege.” Rush was understandably aghast at the attitude, wondering how the young man would approach enemies of the United States when he becomes a diplomat. During his monolog, Rush delved into the most recent episode of “Madam Secretary” that featured some bad tempered Iraqis and a look into the SecState’s past.
“And the other example is, one of the other TV shows I watch periodically is Tea Leoni’s Madam Secretary, which everybody thinks is a setup for Hillary Clinton to be president. Tea Leoni plays the secretary of state, gets the gig after the secretary of state prior to her is killed in a plane crash. And, by the way, she used to be a CIA agent. This is all in the story. She used to be a CIA agent stationed in Iraq where, what do you think she did? She interrogated prisoners. (gasping) Her daughter, her college-age daughter in the last episode, found out that her mom knew that the CIA was torturing Iraqi insurgents when her mom was at the CIA, and so she moves out of the house in shame. She’s ashamed of what her mother did. She can’t believe it. “
Rush’s point was that the episode was a message about how evil America is for allowing torture. However, a close viewing of the episode imparts a different story. Leoni’s character is depicted in Iraq interrogating an insurgent bad guy who was setting off improvised explosive devices. His latest escapade had slaughtered and maimed a lot of school children. Leoni’s character tried to get the man to talk using conventional CIA interrogation techniques before turning him over to a specialist who brought to bear the waterboarding and all the other methods that many have found unsettling.
The message was not exactly “pro-torture,” but it did place harsh interrogation techniques in a context. The terrorists who were waterboarded and slapped around were the worst of the worst and many at the time believed that harsh techniques were necessary to break them in order to save lives. The daughter, who is after all depicted as a snarky, self-righteous millinnial twit, doesn’t seem to understand this. Her mom tried to make her understand.
“If you never listen to anything else I say again for the rest of your life, please hear this: Everything is more complicated than you think it is right now, and the only way to come to know that is through experience. And that’s what this whole process of growing up is all about.”
That admonishment is something a lot of people might do well to heed. The United States is staggering into a war with ISIS, a group that makes Al Qaeda seem like a church choir. What might be necessary to put them down might not bear up to too close and examination.