March 11, 2011 12:32 PM

Time to Quit Whipping a Dead Horse?

What we've got here is...failure to communicate. Some men you just can't reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it... well, he gets it. I don't like it any more than you men.  -Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) (referring to Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden's (R-OR) inability to get a major ISP to testify in favor of an anti-net neutrality resolution at Wednesday's hearing).

The quote above is, of course, not the words of Rep. Waxman.  That quote (you may recognize) was spoken by "Captain, Road Prison 36" in the classic movie "Cool Hand Luke."  Although, it sounds like something Rep. Waxman could have said after Wednesday's hearing (if he was a redneck chain gang prison guard from the '60s), what he actually said was this, "[r]epublicans couldn't get a single major broadband provider to testify in support of their resolution."  For the record, the Republicans won the battle, by successfully voting their "net neutrality repeal" resolution out of the Subcommittee on a 15-8 vote, along party lines.

The significance of Wednesday's hearing might be a little deeper than what meets the eye.  Why did Rep. Waxman say that there wasn't a single major broadband provider supporting the Republican repeal resolution?  Well, Jim Cicconi of AT&T said it best in his prepared testimony wherein he explained, including a quote from a previous statement by AT&T's CEO, Randall Stephenson, that the FCC's compromise rules weren't everything that AT&T had hoped for, but the rules provided certainty, and AT&T could live with them.  Reasonable enough, right?  

On the other side of the coin, for Republicans the "theatre" of the hearing has to lose a little more luster when the biggest proponent of net neutrality uses your own tag line against you.  And, that's just what happened Wednesday when S. Derrick Turner of Free Press referred to the Republicans' effort to legislatively overturn the Commission's rules as a "solution in search of a problem."  This is the exact same language with which Republicans criticized the FCC for spending so much time and resources to adopt the unnecessary, and counterproductive, net neutrality rules.

But, changing ownership of a cliché, or catchphrase--while considered clever by the folks at Free Press--essentially means nothing.  After all, it didn't help the opponents of net neutrality rules, so why should this "used and losed" phrase fare any better in the hands of the proponents of net neutrality?  But the real reason why the Republicans should have heeded the "no more hearings" warning in my post after the last set of hearings?
 
The only payoff is for your opponents.  They simply get more undeserved press to rehash stale arguments.  Unfortunately, for Republicans, the juice just isn't worth the squeeze.  Even if Republicans succeed in getting the resolution out of the House, the resolution then has to get past the Senate and garner 60 votes to get past a Presidential veto.  This is a bad bet, no matter how well-intentioned, because it has long odds and a win won't pay big.  What do you win when your natural supporters don't even want you to place the bet?  But, given the greater odds against, the more relevant question for Republicans might be what can you lose?  

As the Republicans are learning, it takes precious time to demagogue this big bowl of nothing.  Perhaps, the Democrats last term might have been better served by focusing attention on more important issues.  Now there are less Democrats.  Do the Republican legislators really want to repeat this mistake?  

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