CLINTON 1, PENCE 0…. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised a few eyebrows and generated a few laughs this morning during an appearance before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Among other things, Clinton explained to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) that she doesn’t consider Dick Cheney a “particularly reliable source” on detainee abuse issues.

And while that was satisfying to watch, I was even more impressed with how she handled Rep. Mike Pence (R) of Indiana, the right-wing talk-show host turned congressman turned GOP leader.

Pence, one of the institution’s more embarrassing members, twice suggested that President Obama may have deliberately allowed himself to be used for propaganda purposes to bolster the “interests” of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. (The two heads of state shook hands at an international gathering. Someone get the feinting couch.) Pence added that it’s “demoralizing” for those who hope for freedom to see an American leader greet “the very people who are oppressing them.” You’ll have to watch the clip; Pence seemed to think he was being profound.

He wasn’t, and the Secretary of State made it clear the poor schmo doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

I wish I could understand why this point isn’t obvious to clowns like Pence. Does he not remember the Cold War? And the fact that the Soviets did more to oppress those who hope for freedom than any force in recent history? And that U.S. presidents not only shook hands with USSR leaders but also negotiated with them?

Pay particular attention to the end of the Clinton clip, when she explained to Pence, “We want your constructive criticism, we want your feedback. But President Obama won the election. He beat me in a primary, in which he put forth a different approach, and he is now our president. And we all want our president, no matter of which party, to succeed, especially in such a perilous time.”

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.