Is the Obama administration worried about the political ramifications of its push for net neutrality? That’s a question being asked by opponents of the policy in the wake of news that White House senior adviser Susan Crawford resigned last week.
Crawford, an adviser to Obama on technology and communications policy, is a strong proponent of net neutrality, which critics have charged would amount to a government takeover of the internet. The policy has been the focus of widespread, bipartisan opposition in recent weeks, emanating from everyone from internet service providers to liberal-aligned groups and elected Democrats at the state and federal level.
Crawford’s resignation attracted little attention when the American Spectator noted it on Monday, the day before the 2009 election. The results of the election have had the virtually the entirety of the U.S. media focused on Republican wins in gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia, and what has been described as a “rejection” of the Obama agenda. But observers say that Crawford’s exit may be part of that story, too: According to the Spectator, Crawford ran afoul of White House economic adviser Larry Summers, who sources say may be concerned about the political impact of net neutrality. In its write-up, the Spectator noted that:
“[Summers] and other senior Obama officials were unaware of how radical the draft Net Neutrality regulations were when they were initially internally circulated to Obama administration officials several weeks ago. ‘All of sudden Larry is getting calls from CEOs, Wall Street folks he talks to, Republicans and Democrats, asking him what the Administration is doing with the policies, and he isn’t sure what they’re talking about,’ says one White House aide. ‘He felt blind-sided, and Susan was one of those people who heard about it.’”
It now appears that Crawford is the latest to be thrown under the Obama bus, and that the Summers upset may have been responsible for the moderation of proposed net neutrality regulations away from their more radical, original form, as suggested by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. Genachowski, like Crawford, is a strong proponent of the policy, which reportedly remains the focus of deep concern on the part of groups historically seen as Democrat-aligned, including the NAACP, 100 Black Men, National Black Caucus of State Legislators, National Conference of Black Mayors, National Minority Supplier Development Council, LULAC, and the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute. According to the Hill newspaper, Genachowski also came under fire yesterday from Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, for proceeding with the net neutrality rulemaking process with insufficient analysis having been carried out confirming the supposed necessity of net neutrality rules.
Sources say that such ongoing concern and criticism regarding the push for net neutrality could further impact the thinking of key Obama advisers—including Summers and potentially Obama strategist David Axelrod—and ultimately result in the administration backing away from net neutrality entirely. The White House aide cited by the Spectator notes that radical figures within the administration “are just a bunch of targets on our back that we can’t shake.” With regard to Crawford, however, an effort to “shake” her seems to have been made, and it is possible that Genachowski could be the next to be “dealt with” in some form. The White House political operation will be keen to stop the bleeding and eliminate obvious fodder for attacks ahead of next year’s midterm elections, especially in the aftermath of Tuesday. The increased focus on net neutrality ensures that at the very least, scrutiny of Genachowski will continue.