WASHINGTON -- MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on Tuesday accused conservatives and Republicans of exploiting the foiled Christmas terror bombing for political gain and to promote torture.

"Conservatives have been racing for the nearest TV camera to try to score political points off of this failed terrorist attack," Maddow said.

Maddow pointed out the rift between the arguments of senior Republicans in the Bush administration in 2001 and the party's stance now with regard to prosecution of terror suspects.

In December of 2001, Richard Reid (commonly referred to as the "shoe bomber") failed in his attempt to blow up an aircraft with explosives. At the time, Attorney General John Ashcroft and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge advocated and defended his civilian criminal prosecution, and he was ultimately convicted of a life sentence.

"When there's political hay to be made, there's no reason to let complete intellectual incoherence get in your way," Maddow said. She then showed clips of conservatives saying the suspected Christmas attacker, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, does not deserve the rights of ordinary civilians.

"I think the administration has made a mistake by treating this terrorist as a common criminal," said Rep. Peter King (R-NY), the ranking Republican on the homeland security committee. "I wish they had put him into a military tribunal so we could get as much intelligence and information out of him as we could."

"The first and highest priority when you apprehend him is not to make sure he gets his constitutional rights," said MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan. "He's not even a citizen."

Buchanan said it's important to extract information from the suspect, positing, "if that means you have to deny him pain medicine...I think you go ahead and do that."

In the aftermath of 9/11, torture became a heavily polarizing partisan issue. Although an ideological debate has since ensued over its morality and effectiveness in ensuring the safety of the nation, torture remains officially illegal and unconstitutional.

"This is about some ticking timebomb, Jack Bauer-style, campaign ad where torture is defined as something good, and something American, that Democrats are too soft to want to do," Maddow alleged. "This is about sadistic torture fantasies, and the effect that conservatives think those fantasies have on American elections."

The Huffington Post's Sam Stein reported that conservatives hardly criticized the Bush administration for waiting six days before addressing the 2001 shoe bomber incident. President Obama, by contrast, has come under fire from various Republican officials for having waiting three days.

This video is from MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast Dec. 29, 2009.

Download video via RawReplay.com