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February 11th, 2014
05:57 PM ET

Authors: Clinton's tenure at State Department 'a mixed bag'

(CNN) - Hillary Clinton traveled nearly a million miles as secretary of state. But now, with 2016 speculation at a fever pitch, a lot of Republicans are suddenly talking about Clinton's political baggage, specifically, her husband's involvement with Monica Lewinksy, a White House intern, in the late 1990s.

Republican Senator Rand Paul, a man many believe will be running for president in 2016, has publicly criticized former President Bill Clinton for being a "sexual predator," and says Democrats who took money from him, ought to give it back.

Although not everyone in the party thinks re-hashing "Monica-gate" is an effective strategy.

"Republicans are looking to reach out to younger voters," said Jonathan Allen, co-author of "HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton."

"If you're voting in 2016, and you're 18 to say, 28, 30 years old, you probably don't remember the Monica Lewinsky affair. It's probably not part of your real experience, and I think the reason (Paul's) getting push back on that, is it wasn't an effective attack on Bill Clinton," said Allen.

After the Lewinsky scandal, Democrats actually picked up a seat in the House, and Newt Gingrich was forced out of the speakership by his own party.

"Republican elders fear that could backfire on Republicans again," said Allen.

"Republicans want to seize on a lot more, they want to talk about Benghazi," said Amie Parnes, co-author of "HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton."

"People are (also) lobbying on to health care, as an issue to pin her to," said Parnes.

A new report from House Republicans on the Armed Service Committee Tuesday blames the White House and the State Department for ignoring heightened threats to Benghazi. The 2011 attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

"Expeditionary diplomacy is something that Republicans are going to look into right now, and they're going to say, 'Is it worth having diplomats in these spots?'" said Parnes.

"There's no evidence that Hillary Clinton was being apprised of the security situation on the ground in Benghazi as it was getting worse, or certainly of the security decisions at the embassy in Tripoli which also served Benghazi," said Allen.

But "we look back at the philosophy of putting together this mission against Gadhafi, knocking him out of power, of having diplomats in dangerous places," said Allen. "They wanted American diplomats to be out there trying to sell America, and not always being able to do it in a place with a heavy military presence."

If Clinton runs for office, the country's approach to diplomacy will be debated on the national stage.

"What is the nature of American foreign policy? Where do we get ourselves involved? Are we leaving ourselves vulnerable, and our diplomats vulnerable to attack? And in some cases is the calculated risk worth it?" says Allen.

Clinton's time as Secretary of State is "a mixed bag," said Parnes.

For more of our interview with authors Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, check out the video above.

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