As she wraps up her tenure at Foggy Bottom and mulls over a possible 2016 White House bid, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s decade-old bipartisan friendship with McCain appears to have helped shield her from GOP fire — even as her agency finds itself in the thick of a partisan battle over Benghazi. …

But the Arizona Republican has largely spared Clinton from any criticism over the Sept. 11 Benghazi assault that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. When Clinton tried to fall on her sword, saying she alone was responsible for diplomatic security, McCain wouldn’t have it. He called Clinton’s act “laudable” but was adamant that the buck stops with President Barack Obama and that he would try to block Rice’s possible nomination as the nation’s top diplomat. …

Asked pointedly why he hasn’t been as critical of Clinton, McCain did not directly mention the secretary, who has decided against staying on for a second term.

“I’ve said it continuously that the State Department has responsibility,” McCain told POLITICO. “I have been very critical of the State Department and their actions. I’ve been critical of everybody’s actions.”