I was disappointed when the law school decided to give Henry Waxman a pulpit as a short-term Regents Professor. But he's exceeded my expectations by rewriting history in his favor. As the UCLA new service reports:
Waxman said that he does believe partisan rancor has increased. The ACA was the first real bill of his that passed with little to no Republican support. “That may reflect the changes we see in Congress,” he added, noting the Republican Party’s unwillingness to work with President Barack Obama. “They were against him.”
During this year’s presidential election cycle, Waxman said he has noticed that some candidates — from both parties — have made gains in the polls based more on their convictions rather than on rational pragmatism or realistic and concrete policy.
“Now we see [the] political party as a movement, as a way to work out grievances,” he said. “I still have hope for the government of the United States. But you can’t continually work to defeat one another.”
One wonders how much his nose grew when he said that? After all, virtually no one did more to increase the level of partisan rancor in his time in DC. Back in 2007, for example, the SF Chronicle reported that:
Henry Waxman's critics say he is a "Bush-bashing" attack dog obsessed with a partisan vendetta.
His admirers say he is a dogged investigator making up for years of neglect during the six years a Republican-controlled Congress exercised little oversight of a Republican-controlled executive branch.
Whatever his motivations, the 17-term Democratic congressman from Los Angeles has been making life distinctly uncomfortable for the Bush White House.
In 2001, the LA Times reported that:
When Republicans laid siege to the Clinton administration, piling one investigation atop another, few defenders of the president were as staunch as Rep. Henry A. Waxman. He decried the pursuit as blind partisanship, a way for the GOP "to get even for Watergate."
But now that the proverbial shoe has switched feet, the Democrat from the west side of Los Angeles has assumed a new role, rather like that of his old nemeses. On issues from ethics to the environment, Waxman has emerged as one of the leading antagonists of President Bush and his underlings.
As Tony Quinn aptly summed up Waxman's legacy:
... few members have contributed more to the partisanship, extremism and dysfunction of Congress than Henry Waxman in his four decades of service.
Over those years his attitude toward his political opponents has been not only that they were wrong, but that they are deserving of no respect whatsoever. That was not how Congress worked when Waxman first arrived, but in no small part thanks to him, it is the norm for Congress today. ...
Over his decades in Congress, Waxman was well known for showing utter contempt for his political and policy opponents, never willing to admit that they may have a legitimate argument once in a while. That attitude led him to reshape the investigating committees which he chaired in the 1990s into star chambers, most notably when he harangued tobacco executives at a famous 1994 hearing.
Confession is good for the soul. Sadly, Waxman either is in denial about his role in creating the toxic atmosphere in DC or is just being disingenuous.
This is not to say that there are not Republicans who contributed to the toxicity in DC. But I don't expect UCLA to give a Regents Professorship to, say, Darrell Issa.