Clintons pushing back against Republican critics

WASHINGTON (AP) — Bill and Hillary Clinton are fighting back against critics as if they are waging
another campaign, the
clearest sign yet that, perhaps, they are. The former secretary of state and her former president husband
are defending their records, showing
off their health and humor and raising money for fellow Democrats, fresh
indications that Hillary Clinton has her eye on running for president
in 2016.
The onetime first lady was attending her first political
event of the year on Thursday, a New York fundraiser for Pennsylvania
congressional candidate Marjorie Margolies, who is the mother-in-law of
the Clintons’ daughter, Chelsea. The former president has been a steady
rainmaker for Democrats this year, raising money for candidates from
Arkansas to Florida, Kentucky, Michigan and Maryland.
Confronting
Republican critics, the Clintons responded with humor and heft to
suggestions by Republican strategist Karl Rove that Hillary Clinton may
have suffered health problems more serious than she acknowledged after a
concussion and hospitalization in late 2012.
The former president
mused Wednesday that Rove’s doubt-casting on Hillary Clinton’s health
could be a sign of more attacks to come.
"You can’t be too upset
about it, it’s just the beginning. They’ll get better and better at it,"
Clinton said. "It’s just part of the deal." Clinton vouched for his
wife’s good health.
Rove disputed reports that he suggested
Hillary Clinton suffered a brain injury but said her health would be
relevant if she runs again in 2016. His comments brought a stinging
rebuke from Mrs. Clinton’s advisers, the type of response common in a
presidential campaign but unusual since Mrs. Clinton left the Obama
administration last year.
"They are scared of what she has achieved and what she has to offer," said Clinton spokesman
Nick Merrill.
Former
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Clinton supporter, said Rove’s comments
were "an attempt to dissuade Hillary from becoming a candidate" but
said the Clinton response should not imply that Hillary Clinton had made
any decisions.
"Hillary’s people are doing all these things with a
hope that she will become a candidate. This is what a candidate should
be doing in the early stages, but I don’t necessarily think that means
she’s decided yet," Rendell said.
Republicans have signaled that
they will raise the former first lady’s health and age — she would turn
69 about a week before the 2016 election — and her record at the State
Department, including her handling of the 2012 terrorist attack on a
diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans,
including the U.S. ambassador.
On Capitol Hill, Republicans
offered another reminder Thursday of how they will maintain a steady
drumbeat on the Benghazi attacks.
Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.,
and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., renewed a call for a joint select committee,
which Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid has rejected. They suggested
weakness over Clinton’s decision to skip a round of Sunday talk shows
five days after the Sept. 11, 2012, attack and allow then-United Nations
Ambassador Susan Rice to take her place.
"What does that say about Benghazi and her leadership ability?" Graham asked reporters at a
news conference.
Clinton
is expected to tell her side of the Benghazi story next month, when her
new book, "Hard Choices," is released. She has offered a preview in
recent speeches, describing her work with Obama to curb Iran’s nuclear
ambitions, lay the foundation for Middle East peace and help Chinese
dissident Chen Guangcheng.
Bill Clinton, meanwhile, has sought to
remind people of his administration’s economic record. During a recent
Georgetown University speech, he pointed to his creation of nearly 23
million jobs.
More immediately, the Clintons are helping
Margolies, a former Pennsylvania congresswoman, leading up to her May 20
primary for a House seat in the Philadelphia suburbs.
Hillary
Clinton’s event for Margolies was being held at the New York home of
Lynn Forester de Rothschild, a major donor for her 2008 campaign. Bill
Clinton, meanwhile, is appearing in a television ad for Margolies,
vouching for her as someone "who will make you proud."
The former
president on Tuesday helped rake in $1 million at a Potomac, Md.,
campaign fundraiser for Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who hopes to
succeed outgoing Gov. Martin O’Malley, D-Md. Clinton has appeared at
fundraisers for Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Kentucky Democrat challenging
Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, and longtime allies like Mike Ross,
who is running for Arkansas governor, the office that launched Clinton
to the White House.
The former president will headline the Ohio
Democratic Party’s annual gala on June 13, raising money in one of the
nation’s premiere presidential battleground states.
___
Associated Press writer Donna Cassata contributed to this report.