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Republicans in the Senate and especially the House should take a deep breath. Their desperation is showing.

Coming off a bruising defeat in this month’s elections, Republicans are looking for whatever leverage – crowbar – they can find to use against President Obama. But in their slobbering assault on U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, they are allowing their political injuries to interfere with national security even as they further undermine their reputation for seriousness.

In the Senate, where Republican opinions on Rice are at least relevant, Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have smeared Rice as unqualified and untrustworthy and said they would seek to block an effort to nominate her as secretary of state, pending the expected resignation of Hillary Clinton.

In the House, where the Republicans have been downright bizarre over the past two years, party members have also called Rice unfit. The only problem is, they have no say in this issue. A nominee for secretary of state must be approved by the Senate. The House plays no role, a fact for which the nation may be thankful.

Republicans are protesting Rice’s role in reporting on the Sept. 11 attack on U.S. diplomats at Benghazi, Libya. Rice went on Sunday talk shows days after the attack and said that, from the best information she had at the time, the attack was a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim video produced in the United States.

That assessment was based on the most recent CIA report on Benghazi, which, unknown to Rice at the time, was about to be superseded by a better analysis of events. That change opened the door for Republicans to go on the attack.

But they are at best premature and at worst despicable. Reports genuinely were confused at the time. There were almost certainly intelligence failures along the line, but there is no credible evidence that Rice purposely misled on this issue. Indeed, it appears that Republicans, rather than waiting for the results of congressional investigations into the matter, have seized on Benghazi as a flimsy issue with which to cudgel Obama.

Republicans have a lot of work to do if they are to convince tens of millions of Americans that they are serious about the complex issues of governing this country. This unprincipled assault on a public servant doesn’t do that.