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Hillary’s tough

The long-awaited appearance by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before the Senate committee looking into the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, finally took place this week.

Republicans on the committee apparently thought it was time for grilling Clinton and through her, the president.

But the recipe didn’t quite turn out that way.

Clinton showed once again she can hold her own with anyone.

The reason behind the hearings is well-known at this point. Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher J. Stevens, were killed in what was apparently a planned and coordinated attack carried out by anti-U.S. militants. It was not, as first thought, the offshoot of a protest. That initial perception of what was happening, combined with U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s remarks on network talk shows shortly after the attacks, have provided Republicans and other critics of the Obama administration with an opportunity to yell “cover-up,” as they tried to gain some political traction from this tragedy heading to the November election.

Although the Benghazi attack didn’t resonate with voters, there’s are still Republicans who think there’s political soup still to be stirred.

That’s why some Obama and Clinton opponents were quick to charge that Clinton was faking being ill to avoid testimony ... and offered little in the way of apologies when it became clear she was hospitalized for a blood clot resulting from a concussion.

And it’s why there are plenty of Republicans in Congress who insist that the State Department and administration is misleading them.

This putative “cover-up” was the line that some Republican senators wanted to pursue, but Clinton put a stop to that with this response:

“With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of, guys out for a walk one night decided to go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?

“It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again.”

It’s too much to hope that this forthright answer will silence the drumbeat of criticism over Benghazi, and there is undoubtedly much to criticize.

But Clinton is right in attacking the idea of focusing on the uncertainty following the attack and of accusing the administration of playing politics with the tragedy.

That description is, however, an apt one for Senate Republicans.

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