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NPR Exalts Waxman, Gives Him Platform to Bash Tea Party; Lets Liberal Liken Him to Ted Kennedy

NPR's resident ObamaCare booster, Julie Rovner, lionized outgoing liberal Congressman Henry Waxman on Friday's Morning Edition. Rovner trumpeted how "during his 40 years in the House, he focused on passing legislation – lots of legislation – the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Orphan Drug Act, nutrition labels, food safety, and the Affordable Care Act. Waxman played a major role in all of them."

The correspondent left out any conservative/Republican criticism of the California representative, and let a fellow Democratic member of Congress and two liberal talking heads laud the retiring politician, with one heralding him as the Ted Kennedy of the House. She did include two clips from Orrin Hatch, but the Utah Republican senator heaped praise on Rep. Waxman. Rovner also gave the congressman a chance to take a parting shot at the Tea Party-friendly caucus in Congress:

JULIE ROVNER: ...Waxman says that even at a relatively-young 74, he feels Congress has reached a point where he can no longer get much done.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN, (D), CALIFORNIA: It's very difficult when the [Republican] party that's in control is dominated by a group of extremists from the Tea Party that think along the lines of compromise being a dirty word; and working with the other party – the Democrats – as complicity with the enemy.

Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep set the laudatory tone in his introduction for the NPR journalist's report:

STEVE INSKEEP: At the end of this year, the President will lose a vital ally in the House. He's a member of the Watergate class of 1974. After Republican President Richard Nixon resigned in that year, a huge number of Democrats won election to the House. Some soon lost their seats again; others went on to flashy careers. And then, there's Henry Waxman. The California Democrat stayed and stayed, and, for better or worse, Waxman put his name on one of the longest legislative legacies ever assembled.

Rovner wasted little time before rattling off her list of Waxman's supposed accomplishments. She continued with a soundbite from Brookings Institution's Tom Mann, who likened Rep. Waxman to Kennedy: "Waxman is really one of the Ted Kennedy's of the Congress. Remember, they're both liberals, but both had an uncanny ability to work with other members, when need be, on both sides of the aisle to get things done."

After playing her first clip from the California liberal, where he defended his political ideology, the correspondent introduced her snippets from Senator Hatch by asserting that "what's made Waxman so effective over the years has been that willingness to work across the aisle. One of his frequent partners has been Utah conservative Republican Senator Orrin Hatch. They first teamed up on major legislation in the early 1980's, on a bill that paved the way for the sale of generic copies of prescription drugs."

Later in the segment, Rovner played the praising clips from Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown and Families USA's Ron Pollack. While she underlined Waxman's "liberalism" at one point, she never gave ideological labels for these two talking heads. The NPR correspondent also included her soundbite of Waxman's attack on the Tea Party.

Nearly two years earlier, Rovner filed a similarly one-sided report about ObamaCare's controversial mandate for abortifacients, contraception, and sterilizations. She turned to just two talking heads for the segment: Peggy Mastroianni, general counsel at the federal government's own EEOC, an organization which was rebuked in a unanimous Supreme Court decision concerning the rights of houses of worship in hiring and personnel matters; and Sarah Lipton-Lubet, a lawyer for the far-left American Civil Liberties Union, who once worked for the pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights.

The full transcript of Julie Rovner's report from Friday's Morning Edition on NPR:

STEVE INSKEEP: At the end of this year, the President will lose a vital ally in the House. He's a member of the Watergate class of 1974. After Republican President Richard Nixon resigned in that year, a huge number of Democrats won election to the House. Some soon lost their seats again; others went on to flashy careers. And then, there's Henry Waxman. The California Democrat stayed and stayed, and, for better or worse, Waxman put his name on one of the longest legislative legacies ever assembled. Now, he's retiring at the end the year.

As NPR's Julie Rovner reports, he's a politician who earned the description 'lawmaker.'

JULIE ROVNER: Most people have never heard of Henry Waxman. He was never a fixture on the Sunday talk shows or Washington's social scene. Rather, during his 40 years in the House, he focused on passing legislation – lots of legislation – the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Orphan Drug Act, nutrition labels, food safety, and the Affordable Care Act. Waxman played a major role in all of them.

Tom Mann of the Brookings Institution says Waxman will ultimately be remembered right up there with those who commanded much more of the spotlight.

TOM MANN, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: You probably have to go to the other chamber and talk about Ted Kennedy, because Waxman is really one of the Ted Kennedy's of the Congress. Remember, they're both liberals, but both had an uncanny ability to work with other members, when need be, on both sides of the aisle to get things done.

ROVNER: Indeed, Waxman has never apologized for his liberalism. Here's how he described his philosophy in an interview yesterday.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN, (D), CALIFORNIA: We need government. We appreciate it when there's an emergency. We need government when we want clean air and clean water and food that's not going to kill us, and the drugs that will save us and help us.

ROVNER: But what's made Waxman so effective over the years has been that willingness to work across the aisle. One of his frequent partners has been Utah conservative Republican Senator Orrin Hatch. They first teamed up on major legislation in the early 1980's, on a bill that paved the way for the sale of generic copies of prescription drugs.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH, (R), UTAH: It really is on its way to saving trillions of dollars for consumers. It's already saved about a trillion-and-a-half dollars.

ROVNER: Hatch, who worked with Waxman on the Ryan White AIDS law; the Children's Health Insurance Program; and other bills, also opposed him on many issues. But he says he appreciated having Waxman as an adversary, as much as an ally.

HATCH: Oh, he's a formidable opponent, because Henry is always prepared. He's very, very bright. But Henry was not only bright. He was articulate. He understood the legislative process. He's one of the best liberal congress-people that I – that I've known in my whole 37 years in the United States Senate.

ROVNER: And while Waxman made it a point to work across the aisle, he also made it a point to bring along the liberals who will carry on when he's gone, said Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown. Brown began his legislative career in the House under Waxman's tutelage.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN, (D), OHIO: He was a teacher. He was a mentor. He encouraged me. He patiently explained complicated things to me.

ROVNER: The list of Waxman's legislative accomplishments on the website of the House Energy and Commerce Committee – where he's been a leader since the 1970's – includes more than 25 major laws. And that doesn't count the dozens of budget amendments he used to nearly single-handedly expand the Medicaid program during the 1980's and early 1990's.

But Waxman says that even at a relatively-young 74, he feels Congress has reached a point where he can no longer get much done.

WAXMAN: It's very difficult when the party that's in control is dominated by a group of extremists from the Tea Party that think along the lines of compromise being a dirty word; and working with the other party – the Democrats – as complicity with the enemy.

ROVNER: Advocates off the Hill are already wondering what Congress will be like for their issues in a post-Waxman era. Ron Pollack heads the group Families USA, and has worked closely with Waxman since the early 1980's.

RON POLLACK, FAMILIES USA: He's just a formidable foe for those people on the other side, and he's really a personal archive of policy and the history of health care. So, it will be an enormous loss to see Henry leave the Congress.

ROVNER: As for Waxman himself, he hasn't decided what he'll do when he finishes his term. He says he loves both California and Washington, and would like to find something that will let him continue to split his time between the two.

WAXMAN: But not have to go back and forth every week.

ROVNER: Which he's now been doing for four decades. Julie Rovner, NPR News, Washington.

— Matthew Balan is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Matthew Balan on Twitter.