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Rand Paul vs. Hillary Clinton: A preview of 2016? (+video)

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(Read caption) Sen. Paul questions Clinton
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Hillary Clinton's assured and assertive appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has only increased speculation about a possible Clinton presidential run in 2016.

But the hearing has also given an unexpected jolt of publicity to another possible 2016 contender: Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R).

Senator Paul, of course, had one of the most biting – and most replayed – exchanges with Secretary Clinton, telling her at one point: "I'm glad that you're accepting responsibility. I think that ultimately with your leaving, you accept the culpability for the worst tragedy since 9/11. And I really mean that. Had I been president at the time, and I found that you did not read the cables from Benghazi, you did not read the cables from Ambassador Stevens, I would have relieved you of your post. I think it's inexcusable."

It was an eyebrow-raising moment, not only because Paul had the audacity to criticize Clinton so sharply to her face, but because he actually referred to himself, hypothetically, as the president. This is something senators are not typically in the habit of doing – at least, not in public (sample headline from The Atlantic Wire: "In Rand Paul's Imaginary Presidency, He Would Have Fired Clinton").

Paul's attack was so lacking in typical Senate deference that The Washington Post's Dana Millbank described an unnamed Clinton aide as unable to hold back a shocked, "Ohhh!" Mr. Millbank then wrote: "But Paul, a man of exotic opinions, is never going to be president, and Clinton deflected his provocation with a mild reply: 'I believe in taking responsibility, and I have done so.' ”

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