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Clinton says GOP criticism over Benghazi 'more of a reason to run' in 2016

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WASHINGTON - Hillary Rodham Clinton said in an interview Monday that she feels emboldened to run for president because of Republican criticism of her handling of the deadly 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

In an interview with ABC News, Clinton said the Benghazi inquiry from Republicans gives her a greater incentive to run for president because she considers the multiple investigations into the attacks "minor league ball" for a country of the United States' stature. But she said she's still undecided.

"It's more of a reason to run, because I do not believe our great country should be playing minor league ball. We ought to be in the majors," Clinton said emphatically. "I view this as really apart from — even a diversion from — the hard work that the Congress should be doing about the problems facing our country and the world."

The interview publicizing her new book, "Hard Choices," highlighted some of the key lines of criticism Clinton could face if she runs for president in two years: Her record as President Barack Obama's top diplomat and charges by Republicans that she has been insulated from the everyday problems of Americans after more than two decades in public life.

It also brought up painful moments from the past. Clinton told ABC's Diane Sawyer she would wish Monica Lewinsky "well," but said she had moved on from her husband's affair while he served as president.

"I hope that she is able to think about her future and construct a life that she finds meaning and satisfaction in," Clinton said a month after Vanity Fair magazine published a first-person account from Lewinsky.

Reflecting on her failed run in 2008, Clinton said her campaign had a poor strategy and did not hit its stride until after she was "badly beaten" in Iowa's leadoff caucuses. She suggested she would learn from her mistakes.

"If I were to decide to pursue it, I would be working as hard as any underdog," Clinton said.

In the interview, Clinton said her family struggled with legal bills and debt when she and her husband left the White House in early 2001.

"We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt," Clinton said. "We had no money when we got there, and we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages, for houses, for Chelsea's education. You know, it was not easy."

Republicans immediately seized on the comment, two years after their presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, was dogged by accusations of being out-of-touch because of his wealth. GOP officials pointed out that Hillary Clinton received an $8 million book advance for her 2003 memoir and said the comments reflected her insulation from the daily problems of average Americans.

"I think she's been out of touch with average people for a long time," said Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, pointing to Clinton's estimated $200,000-per-speech speaking fees and million-dollar book advances. "Whether she was flat broke or not is not the issue. It's tone deaf to average people."

Hillary Clinton's Senate financial disclosure forms, filed for 2000, show assets between $781,000 and almost $1.8 million. The forms allow senators to report assets in broad ranges. The same form, however, showed that the Clintons owed between $2.3 million and $10.6 million in legal bills to four firms.

Democrats noted that the Clintons gave away $10 million after departing the White House and during the 2008 campaign, Mrs. Clinton released tax reforms that showed a total of $1.1 million in book proceeds went to charities between 2000 and early 2008.

Her book also offers a rebuke to Republicans who have seized upon the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

Republicans have accused the Obama administration of stonewalling congressional investigators and misleading the public about the nature of the attack in the weeks before the presidential election. Republicans have questioned Clinton's response to the attacks and whether she could have done more to secure the diplomatic compounds.

Multiple independent, bipartisan and Republican-led investigations have faulted the State Department for inadequate security in Benghazi, leading to four demotions. No attacker has been arrested.

In her book, Clinton calls the accusations plainly political, writing that she will not be "part of a political slugfest on the backs of dead Americans."

Asked whether she will testify before a new congressional committee investigating the attacks, Clinton would not make any commitments, saying it depends on how the inquiry is conducted.

"I'm not going to say one way or another," Clinton said. "We'll see what they decide to do, how they conduct themselves: Whether this is one more travesty about the loss of four Americans or whether this is in the best tradition of the Congress, an effort to try and figure out what we can do better."

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Associated Press writer Philip Elliott contributed to this report.

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Follow Ken Thomas on Twitter at http://twitter.com/AP_Ken_Thomas

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