Mara Liasson hyped Hillary Clinton as "the most popular politician in the country" on Friday's Morning Edition on NPR. Liasson asserted that "there's no question that being out of politics for four years has enhanced her political reputation," and devoted her report to touting how the supposedly "fireproof" Mrs. Clinton's experience as secretary of state would make her a "field-clearing frontrunner" in the 2016 presidential race.
The NPR journalist played soundbites from just two pundits during the segment, both of them close political associates of the Clintons: former White House Press Secretary Dee Myers, and Geoff Garin, who was the chief strategist for the former First Lady's 2008 presidential bid. Liasson merely identified Garin as some one who "has worked for Clinton in the past."
Host Renee Montagne set the gushing tone as she introduced the correspondent's report: "She [Clinton] leaves the job with sky-high approval ratings, and there's already a super PAC established to urge her to run for president in 2016." Liasson then led with her superlatives for Mrs. Clinton: "She's one of the most famous women in the world, and as she leaves office today, she's also the most popular politician in the country."
The journalist then played her first clip from Myers, who added that the outgoing secretary of state is also "the most formidable [politician], with the possible exception of President Obama." After giving her "enhanced her political reputation" line, Liasson continued that "over time, says Myers, she [Clinton] has simply worn down her critics."
Moments later, the NPR correspondent followed CBS News political director John Dickerson's lead in playing up Steve Kroft's beyond softball interview of Mrs. Clinton and President Obama on Sunday's 60 Minutes:
MARA LIASSON: Clinton has won bipartisan praise, even though she leaves behind no Clinton peace treaty or Clinton arms accords. And she's also been the subject of gushing tributes, including an affectionate appearance on '60 Minutes' with her former rival and current boss President Obama, who once famously described as 'likeable enough'.
Later in the segment, Liasson claimed that the former New York senator "suffered not a scratch" in her recent testimony before Congress on the Islamist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. She soon added that "[Wisconsin Senator Rob] Johnson was the last in a line of men who've come out on the wrong end of a tangle with Clinton. All that just reinforces the notion that Clinton, who has taken so much incoming fire in the past, is now fireproof."
Before playing the sole sound bite from Garin, the journalist outlined favorably that "if Secretary Clinton does decide to run for president in four years...she would be 69 by Election Day. But maybe the first woman nominee has to be older, in order to accumulate the kind of experience that would shut down any questions about whether she was qualified."
Liasson repeated her "most popular" label near the end of her report, as she continued to boost Mrs. Clinton:
LIASSON: And she says she wants to catch up on 20 years of sleep deprivation. But sooner or later, the most popular politician in the United States will have to make a choice whether or not to run for president. And through her long career, Clinton has always opted for the path that would let her wield the most institutional power to make the biggest impact.
The full transcript of Mara Liasson's report from Friday's Morning Edition is available at MRC.org.