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By Lesley Clark, McClatchy Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Former President Bill Clinton says his wife works out daily and is “still quicker than I am” when it comes to mental acuity, denying an assertion that a fall in 2012 left Hillary Clinton sicker than she’s admitted.

Clinton’s defense of his wife’s health Wednesday was a response to comments from Republican strategist Karl Rove suggesting that Hillary Clinton might have suffered a “traumatic brain injury” in 2012 and had spent 30 days in the hospital. She was only hospitalized for three days.

Clinton said he was “dumbfounded” by the charge and noted that Republicans initially accused Hillary Clinton of faking her illness to get out of testifying on the attack on a U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya.

“First they say she faked her concussion, now they say she’s auditioning for a part on The Walking Dead, ” Clinton quipped to laughter at the 2014 Fiscal Summit in Washington, hosted by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

The former president, who has had several surgeries to treat heart disease, said Hillary Clinton is healthier than he is and has fully recovered from the fall.

“If she has brain damage, I must be in really bad shape because she’s still quicker than I am,” he said. “There’s nothing to it.”

Rove was criticized by fellow Republicans for the remarks and has sought to clarify them, saying he never said that Clinton had brain damage.

But Clinton surely would face questions about her health if she ran for president. She’d be 69 in November 2016, and if elected would be the second-oldest president behind Ronald Reagan.

Bill Clinton acknowledged the scrutiny of his wife will intensify if she decides to mount a second run for the presidency.

“It’s just the beginning,” he said of Rove’s remarks. “They’ll get better and better at it.”

Hillary Clinton coined the phrase “vast right-wing conspiracy” to complain that critics of the Clintons were trying to tear down the Clinton presidency. Bill Clinton quipped, “I’m still waiting for them to admit there was nothing to Whitewater.”

Democrats have charged that Hillary Clinton is also one of the targets of a new House select committee convened to investigate the September 11, 2012, attacks in Benghazi. Bill Clinton sought to refute Republican assertions that Hillary Clinton mishandled the attacks.

She “did what she should’ve done” in responding to the incident by appointing a high-level commission to investigate and recommend fixes, Bill Clinton said.

“My advice to everyone involved is to not be defensive, realize what this is,” Clinton said of the new House Benghazi panel.

He declined to offer his take on the panel, saying he didn’t want to get into a “political fight.”

Photo: Veni markovski via Flickr
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