Amanda Muñoz - Washington Power Players Discuss Gridlock Over Pumpkin Tarts
Posted: 11/7/2014 3:20:00 PM EST

Update (3: 42 p.m. ET) - From the Speaker’s Office: “The Speaker warned that unilateral action by the president on executive amnesty will erase any chances of doing immigration reform and will also make it harder for Congress and the White House to work together successfully on other areas where there might otherwise be common ground.”

Speaker Boehner also encouraged the drafting and consideration of a new Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in the fight against ISIS during today's meeting.


President Obama met with top Congressional leaders at the White House earlier this afternoon to discuss a way forward for gridlocked Washington in light of the new Republican majority. The White House menu for the powerhouse luncheon included heirloom tomatoes, herb crusted sea bass, and pumpkin tarts.

In attendance were House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Congressman Xavier Becerra (D-CA), GOP Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Vice President Joe Biden, Senator John Thune (R-SD), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

Obama made a point to congratulate Boehner and McConnell, who will be replacing Reid as Senate Majority Leader when the 114th Congress convenes in January, and reflect on the message that was sent by voters in midterm results.

“As I also said the day after the election, what we’ve seen now for a number of cycles is that the American people just want to see work done here in Washington,” Obama remarked. “I think they’re frustrated by the gridlock. They’d like to see more cooperation. And I think all of us have the responsibility, me in particular, to try to make that happen. And so this gives us a good opportunity to explore where we can make progress on behalf of the people who sent us here.”

Obama continued, saying that he was “confident” both sides of the aisle are ready to get to work:

“The one thing that I’ve committed to both Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell is that I am not going to judge ideas based on whether they’re Democratic or Republican; I’m going to be judging them based whether or not they work. And I’m confident that they want to produce results, as well, on behalf of the American people.”

While Congressional Republicans have expressed interest in prioritizing energy, healthcare, and education legislation since the announcement of their majority, Obama remarked that continuing to work on the Ebola outbreak and the battle with ISIS remain top priority for the White House, with budget requests to combat these issues totaling close to $10 billion dollars. The president also hoped that the current Congress would still have the opportunity to “make progress on a whole bunch of fronts” before the year is over.

The White House press pool was removed from the meeting around 12:55 p.m. Eastern Time and reported that members were first seen leaving around 2:50 p.m. Congressional leaders did not stay for comment.

There have been no announcements of any major, overhauling legislation scheduled to hit the House Floor before December 31st; however Congress will have to pass some sort of funding bill before the December 11th deadline.

Greg Hengler - Obama's Election Take: I Hear You Non-Voters
Posted: 11/7/2014 3:09:00 PM EST

On this week's Townhall Weekend Journal:

Bill Bennett with Rober Costa on the election results. Mike Gallagher and Newt Gingrich discuss the election. Dennis Prager and John Fund on moving forward after the election. Michael Medved on the disenfranchising impact of third-party candidates. Prager and Michael Coren on the present holocaust being perpetrated by Muslims on Christians in the Middle East. Hewitt and Thomas Edsall on Obama's future and his impact on the the Democrat party. Tom Cotton's victory speech.

Matt Vespa - It's Over: Ed Gillespie Concedes Virginia Senate Race To Democratic Incumbent Mark Warner
Posted: 11/7/2014 1:21:00 PM EST

Republican challenger Ed Gillespie has conceded to incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Warner. Gillespie was trailing Warner by 16,727 votes in a race that was surprisingly close given that Warner was leading his Republican challenger by double digits in the vast majority of polls.

The fact that Warner squeaked out a win with 0.4 percent of the vote is another indication of the disastrous night Democrats had last Tuesday.

Concerning a recount, Gillespie said he would have taken such a course if he knew victory was possible. In this case, it was not. But, the former RNC chair had a great showing that puts him in a great position to run statewide again in 2017 when Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe’s term is up. (via CNN):

He [Gillespie] said he would challenge the result "if I believed that there were any conceivable way" to win in a recount. He said he'd forwarded complaints about voter irregularities on to Virginia election officials, but that those votes wouldn't change the race's outcome.

"In my head and in my heart, I know that a change in outcome is not possible," he said. "The numbers just aren't there, and it's time to accept the decision of my fellow Virginians."

Gillespie's surprisingly strong showing has fueled speculation that he could run again for statewide office -- including possibly for governor.

Republicans still picked up 7 Senate seats last Tuesday to retake the majority in the Senate. They will also have the majority of governorships, state legislatures, and the largest House majority in 86 years. 

Matt Vespa - SCOTUS To Hear New Obamacare Challenge
Posted: 11/7/2014 1:15:00 PM EST

Obamacare is coming back to the Supreme Court. Today, the Court decided it would hear the new Obamacare challenge against health care subsidies that was originally argued in the D.C. Circuit Court Of Appeals last summer in Halbig v. Burwell.

The Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, Jacqueline Halbig, but the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell in King v. Burwell, which Guy noted would increase the chance of this case going back to the Supreme Court.

This is the case that will be heard.

Yet, after the 2014 elections, let’s do a recap of the case that’s now on the docket. Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor, gave a rundown of the case last summer:

The Halbig case challenges the massive federal subsidies in the form of tax credits made available to people with financial need who enroll in the program. In crafting the act, Congress created incentives for states to set up health insurance exchanges and disincentives for them to opt out. The law, for example, made the subsidies available only to those enrolled in insurance plans through exchanges "established by the state."

But despite that carrot — and to the great surprise of the administration — some 34 states opted not to establish their own exchanges, leaving it to the federal government to do so. This left the White House with a dilemma: If only those enrollees in states that created exchanges were eligible for subsidies, a huge pool of people would be unable to afford coverage, and the entire program would be in danger of collapse.

Indeed, the Halbig plaintiffs — individuals and small businesses in six states that didn't establish state exchanges — objected that, without the tax credits, they could have claimed exemption from the individual mandate penalty because they would be deemed unable to pay for the coverage. If the courts agree with them, the costs would go up in all 34 states that didn't establish state exchanges, and the resulting exemptions could lead to a mass exodus from Obamacare.

If the Court rules against the Obama administration, Obamacare is virtually gutted, which is why liberals might get queasy during this second bout (NYT):

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a new challenge to the Affordable Care Act, imperiling President Obama’s signature legislative achievement two years after it survived a separate Supreme Court challenge by a single vote.

The case, King v. Burwell, No. 14-114, concerns tax subsidies that are central to the operation of the health care law.

According to the challengers, those subsidies are not available in the states that have decided not to run the marketplaces for insurance coverage known as exchanges. Under the law, the federal government has stepped in to run exchanges in those states.

If the challengers are right, millions of people receiving subsidies would become ineligible for them, destabilizing and perhaps dooming the law.

The central question in the case is what to make of a provision in the law limiting subsidies to “an exchange established by the state.”

The challengers say the provision means that only people in states with their own exchanges can get subsidies. Congress made the distinction, they say, to encourage states to participate.

But the Internal Revenue Service has issued a regulation saying subsidies are allowed whether the exchange is run by a state or by the federal government. The challengers say that regulation is at odds with the law.

In response, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. told the justices that the I.R.S. interpretation was correct while the one offered by the challengers was “contrary to the act’s text and structure and would render the act unrecognizable to the Congress that passed it.”

Round II is upon us; let’s see what happens.

Conn Carroll - President Obama's Executive Amnesty Was On The Ballot Tuesday And It Lost
Posted: 11/7/2014 1:10:00 PM EST

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest deserves a raise. It took Baghdad Bob levels of chutzpah to stand at the White House Briefing room podium yesterday and utter the following sentences:

I do think that there is ample data to indicate that a lot of the policies that the President himself has advocated are strongly supported by those who participated in the election; that from support for a path to citizenship for immigrants who have been in this country for an extended period of time, to the President’s handling of things like Ebola or ISIL, that there’s strong support for what the President has pursued.
Now, these results are notable for a couple of reasons. One is, as you pointed out, that the electorate skewed Republican, that more Republicans showed up. But yet according to the findings of these exit polls, there is strong support for some of the priorities and policies that the President has carried out. 

For the moment let's set aside Earnest's implication that Obama should only be accountable to Democratic electorates and that he has every right to ignore Republican ones.

Instead, let's look closer at his claim that Obama's plan to give illegal immigrants a "path to citizenship" found "strong support" in Tuesday's exit polls. Here is the actual question from the survey: "Most Illegal Immigrants Working in U.S. Should Be" either "Offered legal status" or "Deported?"

It is true that 57 percent of voters said "most" "working" illegal immigrants should be offered legal status, but look carefully for the word completely missing from the question... "citizenship. That is a kinda key component of Obama's "path to citizenship" policy.

The exit poll question also has other flaws that make it a inaccurate stand in for Obama's preferred immigration solutions. It says nothing about Obama's impending plan to grant millions of illegal immigrants, whether they are working or not, legal status through executive fiat. And, more importantly, it asserts a false choice between legal status and deportation.

As Obama's own former-Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting director John Sandweg told The Los Angeles Times, under Obama's current policies illegal immigrants living in the United States already face virtually no threat of deportation. "If you are a run-of-the-mill immigrant here illegally, your odds of getting deported are close to zero," Sandweg said, "It's just highly unlikely to happen."

So if illegal immigrants living in the United States already face a "close to zero" chance of being deported, then what would Obama's impending executive amnesty accomplish?

Well, if it is anything like his last executive amnesty, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, it will give illegal immigrants work permits, Social Security numbers, and drivers licenses. 

Is this a policy Americans support?

Well, it turns out that in the deep blue state of Oregon, which elected both a Democratic Senator and a Democratic Governor Tuesday, there was also a ballot initiative that would have allowed the state to give drivers licenses to illegal immigrants just like Obama wants to do by executive fiat. 

And guess what? The overwhelmingly Democratic voters of Oregon rejected the initiative by a 66 percent to 34 percent landslide.

So if Obama goes through with his executive amnesty he will be directly overturning the will of Oregon's Democratically "skewed" electorate.

But, liberals might object, aren't drivers licenses a state issue? Isn't up to each state whether or not they issue drivers licenses to illegal immigrants?

Not in Obama's America.

After Obama enacted DACA in 2012, Arizona passed a law denying DACA amnesty recipients the ability to obtain drivers licenses. Some DACA amnesty recipients then sued the state and in July of this year a federal court ruled that it was unconstitutional for any state to deny executive amnesty recipients drivers licenses

So, contra Earnest, to the extent that Obama's executive amnesty was on the ballot Tuesday, and it most certainly was in Democratic Oregon, it was soundly rejected.

Katie Pavlich - Making Moves: Ben Carson Looks Like He's Running For President
Posted: 11/7/2014 12:00:00 PM EST

Now that the 2014 midterms are over get ready for 2016, because the race for the White House is already here. 

Dr. Ben Carson, who became a conservative phenomenon after giving a speech at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, has officially changed his voter registration from Independent to Republican and he's released a video to prove it. 

Hmmm now why would he do that? Since his debut at the prayer breakfast, where he focused much of his time on Obamacare, Carson has appeared on Fox News to discuss a range of topics and government policies. He's also written a number of books throughout his life. 

According to The Hill, Carson will air an "introduction" video this weekend in 22 different states.

Ben Carson is introducing himself as a potential 2016 presidential candidate in a 40-minute video that will be aired on TV stations in 22 states and Washington, D.C.

Armstrong Williams, a conservative commentator who is Carson’s business manager, is behind the video, entitled: “A Breath of Fresh Air: A New Prescription for America.”

And Allahpundit points out that Dr. Carson has been raking in some major cash from grassroots donors. 

As of mid-October, the Draft Ben Carson for President PAC had drawn $10.6 million in donations, among the biggest hauls of any PAC this year. And they didn’t do it with mega-millions gifted to them by billionaires; 90 percent of their haul came from small donors.
It's no secret that Carson might throw his hat in the ring for 2016, but he's certainly taking more obvious steps toward that goal as declaration time gets closer. The first Republican primary debate is set for September 2015 at the Reagan Library in California.
Cortney O'Brien - Cuomo Wins With Lowest Voter Turnout Since 1930
Posted: 11/7/2014 11:45:00 AM EST

Even though New York’s population has grown by 7 million since the 1930s, voter turnout did not move an inch on Tuesday in the Empire State’s gubernatorial election. That, if anything, is a good indication of how unimpressed New Yorkers are with their current governor. The incumbent Democrat Andrew Cuomo defeated his GOP challenger Rob Astorino by 14 points, but The Buffalo News has the night's overall paltry numbers:

Although the numbers are still not finalized, it appears turnout in New York this year was between 3.6 million and 3.8 million voters, according to Bruce Gyory, an adjunct professor of political science at the University at Albany.

“That’s not just a low turnout, but a record low turnout,” he said Wednesday in an interview.

In fact, it could be the lowest turnout since FDR’s election in 1930. No joke:

Cuomo tallied 1,918,644 votes, with 99 percent of the state’s precincts reporting. If he does not break the two million mark, it would be the first time that vote level has not been broken since FDR was re-elected governor 84 years ago with 1.8 million votes.

Maybe it’s the fact that Governor Cuomo disbanded the ethics committee called the Moreland Commission when it got a little close to his own campaign, or maybe voters were still bitter about the time he said conservatives and pro-lifers were ‘not welcome’ in the state of New York. Whatever the reason, New Yorkers were just not enthused to go to the polls to support a governor who clearly doesn’t support many of them.

It’s not just conservatives in the Empire State who are fed up with Cuomo, however. The results from September’s Democratic primary revealed he has a major lack of support in his own party. He barely received 60 percent of the vote, with his more liberal opponent Zephyr Teachout, whose campaign received nowhere near the amount of funds as Cuomo’s won 35 percent. As for liberals disenchanted with the governor, their grievances include his acrimonious relationship with labor unions and his refusal (so far) to ban fracking in the state. 

So, yes governor you won, but it wasn’t pretty.


Leah Barkoukis - The Rise of the Islamic State
Posted: 11/7/2014 10:11:00 AM EST

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the November issue of Townhall Magazine. 

Since the September 11 attacks, al Qaeda has been a household name in America, one that’s been seared into the minds of national consciousness as the country’s preeminent terrorist threat. But on the eve of September 11 this year, President Obama spoke from the White House about a new threat: the Islamic State.

Thanks to the group’s affinity for global propaganda, the world has witnessed in an unprecedented way the beheadings, crucifixions, rapes, torture, and genocide that have become hallmarks of their bloody expansion in Iraq and Syria.

By early September, the Islamic State occupied a significant portion of the Tigris-Euphrates basin, they had an estimated 20,000–31,500 battle-hardened fighters under their control across Iraq and Syria, and money derived from extortion and crime networks, hostages, oil, and donations, made them one of the richest terror groups in the world.

The Islamic State’s meteoric ascendency took many in the United States by surprise, but it is a group that, while operating under different names and in various shapes, has been in the making for more than two decades. And despite having the exact same goal as al Qaeda, namely, the reestablishment of the caliphate, they are different organizations whose relationship with each other has been fraught with enmity, distrust, and competition for quite some time.

Given IS’s current stature, and now that the groups have officially separated, many are wondering whether the Islamic State will eclipse al Qaeda as the world’s most powerful jihadi force—or if it already has.

A Grisly Path to Power

The Islamic State’s story begins with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian mastermind behind some of Iraq’s bloodiest attacks during the insurgency.

A onetime street thug, Zarqawi met Osama bin Laden in 1999 and “it was loathing at first sight,” journalist Mary Anne Weaver reported. Zarqawi’s criminal past, extreme hatred of Shias, and overbearing personality created friction and distrust from the start.

But Zarqawi wasn’t at that initial meeting to join al Qaeda—he was seek- ing assistance for setting up a wholly separate entity: a terrorist training camp in western Afghanistan.

The question over who the primary target should be was also an important divide between the two leaders. Zarqawi fell into the “near enemy” camp (Arab regimes deemed ‘un-Islamic’) and sought to overthrow apostate regimes in the Levant. While bin Laden thought efforts should be focused on the “far enemy” (the U.S. and other Western regimes). After much debate, bin Laden agreed to give Zarqawi a small amount of seed money to start the camp.

In 2001, the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan pushed Zarqawi’s network into Iraq, where he linked up with local terror groups before branching off to form his own independent organization, Jama’at al-Tawhid Wa’al-Jihad, which flourished amid the sectarian tensions that followed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Zarqawi, like Baghdadi and the rest of IS today, relished in brutality. His campaign of suicide bombings, hostage- takings, and beheadings across the country led to great notoriety, reaching a zenith with the videotaped beheading of American businessman Nicholas Berg at the hands of Zarqawi himself. By this point, The Atlantic notes, Zarqawi had become a “superstar of the international “jihadi” movement.”

Despite U.S.-led efforts in mid-2004 to nab Zarqawi and his network, JTJ not only survived, but Zarqawi sought to expand the group’s operations and looked once again to al Qaeda. After months of negotiations—and years of resisting— Zarqawi pledged his allegiance to bin Laden in October of that year, turning JTJ into al Qaeda in Iraq, or AQI.

Aaron Zelin of The Washington Institute for Near Easy Policy describes the merger as a “marriage of convenience” more than anything else—one that “sowed the initial seeds of today’s conflict between the two groups.”

“The move allowed al-Zarqawi greater access to Al Qaeda’s technical and operational expertise. Most important, Al Qaeda offered Al-Zarqawi both a brand name and a larger platform from which he could draw recruits,” writes Peter Chalk, author of the “Encyclopedia of Terrorism.” All of which served the greater purpose of fomenting a sectarian civil war in the country to prevent Western powers from establishing a functioning democracy. This, in turn, would clear the way for al Qaeda and its affiliates to set up an Islamic emirate in Iraq.

And for al Qaeda, “attaching its name to Zarqawi’s activities enabled it to maintain relevance even as its core forces were destroyed [in Afghanistan] or on the run,” writes Brian Fishman, a counterterrorism fellow at the New America Foundation.

Overreach and Defeat

The ideological divide between the two leaders began to manifest on the battlefield, however. In 2005, Ayman al-Zawahiri, then deputy head of al Qaeda and its current leader, wrote to Zarqawi warn- ing him about his excessive violence, particularly against Iraq’s majority Shia population, which al Qaeda believed would erode support for the group in the region.

“Among the things which the feelings of the Muslim populace who love and support you will never find palatable— also—are the scenes of slaughtering the hostages. You shouldn’t be deceived by the praise of some of the zealous young men and their description of you as the shaykh of the slaughterers, etc. They do not express the general view of the admirer and the supporter of the resistance in Iraq, and of you in particular by the favor and blessing of God,” Zawahiri wrote in a lengthy letter dated July 9, 2005. “[W]e are in a battle, and that more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media.”

Not only did these warnings go un- heeded, Zarqawi stepped up his pursuit of sectarian war.

Things soon took a turn for the worse for the group, however. In June 2006, the organization’s leadership received a major blow when Zarqawi was killed in a targeted U.S. airstrike. And during 2006 and 2007 in the Anbar Province, where AQI was the dominant insurgent group, Sunni tribes began to fight back. Sick of AQI’s brutality and extreme Islamic agenda, they turned toward their enemy—the U.S.—for help. After teaming up with the Americans in what is famously known as the Awakening campaign, AQI’s cadre of foreign fighters were all but defeated. And as the war in Iraq began to wind down, the U.S. was careful to eliminate as much of AQI’s leadership as they could.

In light of this, private intelligence company Stratfor noted in a June 2010 report that “the militant organization’s future for success looks bleak.” Nevertheless, it continued, its “intent to establish an Islamic caliphate in Iraq has not diminished.”

America Leaves, Terror Returns

By late 2011, the U.S. troop withdrawal in Iraq was complete, and a regrouped AQI, rebranded under the name the Islamic State of Iraq to represent its broader ambitions, began increasing attacks on Shia targets in an attempt to reignite conflict between the Sunni minority and former-Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki’s Shia-dominated government.

“Heavy-handed actions taken by Maliki to consolidate power in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal have alienated much of the Sunni minority, and ISIS has since exploited the “failed social contract,”” according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Islamic State’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, also took steps to pave the way for the group’s resurgence, such as the assassination of rivals and a yearlong campaign of prison breaks to replenish the group’s veteran manpower. He also began diversifying the group’s sources of funding to decrease dependence on al Qaeda’s central authorities.

Meanwhile, the conflict in Syria attracted the Sunni jihadists to the rebellion against the Assad regime, but the group’s expansion into the country proved to be a controversial one.

Al Qaeda No More

In April 2013, Baghdadi unilaterally declared a merger with the al Nusra Front (an al Qaeda affiliate in Syria), creating a cross-border movement by the name the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, or ISIS.

But Zawahiri, now head of “core al Qaeda,” rejected the merger and told Baghdadi that his operations must remain within Iraq.

After repeatedly disobeying Zawahiri’s orders, and after public reconciliation efforts failed, al Qaeda’s General Command issued a statement on February 2, 2014 officially expelling ISIS from their network.

And in the months that followed, the hostility between the groups became exceedingly evident. ISIS released a num- ber of statements challenging Zawahiri’s leadership and even killed a high-level member of al Qaeda shortly after the breakup.

In April 2014, the group’s spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, said, “Verily al Qaeda today has ceased to be the base of jihad, rather its leadership has become an axe supporting the destruction of the project of the Islamic State and the coming khilafa (caliphate).”

But ISIS’s most direct challenge to al Qaeda and its senior leadership would come on June 29, when, after a successful offensive against the Iraqi government, Adnani announced the reestablishment of the caliphate—“a dream,” he described, “that lives in the depths of every Muslim believer.” The group named Baghdadi as caliph and changed its name to simply the Islamic State.

The reestablishment of the caliphate is a shared goal among jihadists, al Qaeda included. But terrorism expert Thomas Hegghammer explains on the Lawfare Blog that thus far, jihadis have viewed it as a sort of utopia, namely because the Islamic legal conditions are so difficult to meet in today’s international system. “In theory, the leader of a caliphate rules all Muslims and has supreme executive authority in military matters,” he writes, which is exactly what Adnani declared in the announcement when he said “the legality of all emirates, groups, states, and organizations becomes null by the expansion of the caliphate’s authority.”

Though the announcement called on factions worldwide to pledge their allegiance, none of al Qaeda’s official branches defected because they view the declaration as being premature and not having met the Sharia requirements. Moreover, even though ISIS certainly has support from grassroots sympathizers, some minor clerics, and a small number of dissidents within al Qaeda branches, prominent clerics close to al Qaeda have criticized the announcement and the Nusra Front has mocked it, calling it a Twitter Caliphate. Thus far they have failed to develop their network outside of Syria and Iraq. As J.M. Berger of Intelwire wrote in July, “it’s starting to look like that time ISIS threw a caliphate party and nobody came.”

Overreaching Again

The Islamic State, however questionably, has reestablished the caliphate, they control significant territory and resources, they’re killing ruthlessly throughout Iraq and Syria, and their ambitions at the moment are sky high.

Time magazine has crowned Baghdadi with the “world’s most dangerous man” title, Le Monde has referred to the leader as “the new bin Laden,” Brett McGurk, deputy assistant secretary of state for Iraq and Iran, described the organization as being “worse than al Qaeda,” and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said they’re “beyond anything we’ve seen.” 

Al Qaeda, on the other hand? “For the last 10 years or more, [Zawahiri] has been holed up in the Afghanistan- Pakistan border area and hasn’t really done very much more than issue a few statements and videos,” Richard Barrett, a former counterterrorism chief with the British foreign intelligence service, told AFP in June. And Charlie Cooper, a researcher at the Quilliam Foundation, said, “al Qaeda has become increasingly irrelevant in the face of ISIS skyrocketing to the position it’s in now”—a sentiment echoed by many commentators in light of the group’s exploits this summer.

If we look at public discourse on which group is winning the war to become the jihadi superpower, it appears the wind is blowing in the Islamic State’s direction. While acknowledging that IS is currently a more formidable force than al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, believes that many commentators are overestimating the group’s strengths, while at the same time underestimating al Qaeda’s.

“They’re brilliant tacticians, but overall they have a way of making more and more enemies and more and more groups to fight constantly, which is eventually going to work against them,” he tells Townhall. Despite already fighting on multiple fronts, the fact that IS opened up a new front in Kurdistan when the Kuridsh forces weren’t even fighting them is a case in point.

The gratuitous violence employed by IS, while a strategy that’s not necessarily doomed to fail, is one that also has the potential to draw in new enemies.

“They are so radical, they’re so violent, that they run the risk of turning their more natural supportive constituencies against them,” Dr. Steven Bucci of The Heritage Foundation tells Townhall, pointing to what happened during the Awakening.

“This very brutal image, which many people think is so helpful to them, is probably only helpful insofar as they’re winning,” Gartenstein-Ross says. “Once AQI started losing, Zarqawi’s brutal image really worked against the organization.”

A More Rational Version of Jihad

Al Qaeda learned its lesson from that experience and is able to use what’s happening with IS as a way to rebrand itself as a more “rational version of jihad,” he says. The Islamic State, on the other hand, is doing everything AQI did and more.

But aside from the inherent weaknesses to being a violent non-state actor, al Qaeda is in a relatively strong position, Gartenstein-Ross argues. 

Al Qaeda has a powerful international network that is very much intact and growing. In September, for example, Zawahiri announced a new affiliate on the Indian subcontinent, directly challenging the notion that they’ve become irrelevant. There’s also no compelling evidence that they’re hurting for recruits, Gartenstein-Ross says, noting that it is, after all, a clandestine organization. And the U.S. drawing down from Afghanistan presents the possibility of another safe haven emerging in the country.

Bucci also believes people are dismissing al Qaeda’s threat prematurely.

“There have been some folks that have said ISIS is like a roman candle—it’s going great guns right now but it’s gonna burn out very quickly. I think that’s overly optimistic, they could burn out quickly but they’re gonna need some help doing it, help in the negative sense. So I think al Qaeda is still a threat, it is premature to dismiss them. Even if ISIS becomes more of a threat, that doesn’t mean that al Qaeda is not a threat any longer.”

While the Islamic State’s focus has been on the ‘near enemy,’ the group has threatened the West and taunted Americans at large through social media.

Bucci believes we should not ignore their warnings against the U.S. as we did with al Qaeda before September 11.

“You don’t necessarily need a nuclear weapon or even a radiological dispersal device or something like that to do a pretty significant event here in America,” Bucci explains. “Would it be any less significant if they blow up a big bomb somewhere or if they do five Mumbai- style attacks in five different cities around America? ... It’s not that hard to do ... so I would never dismiss a group as dedicated and radical as ISIS and say they can’t do anything.”

In the near term, at least, Gartenstein-Ross says that the likelihood of a 9/11-style attack in the U.S. from the group is low, although certainly a possibility.

“Their external operations capabilities, as far as I can tell, have not been as developed as al Qaeda’s of 9/11,” he says, “and even al Qaeda would be hard- pressed to carry out another 9/11 because we’ve implemented a lot of procedures to try to prevent an attack like that.”

Al Qaeda in Wait

The reality is that al Qaeda doesn’t have to carry out a major attack on the U.S. in the near future to prove its relevancy, as many analysts and commentators have suggested. Right now, they’re sitting back watching their two enemies fight each other. Attacking America, then, would be extremely counterproductive, as it would divert the United States’ attention away from IS and onto them.

Al Qaeda wants Baghdadi dead and IS to be broken up so they can “reabsorb the parts of ISIS that could help them,” Gartenstein-Ross explains—and that’s exactly what the U.S. is attempting to do right now. “They’d like to take back the network, just as they were part of the network previously.”

No End in Sight

When Obama finally spoke to the American people about the Islamic State in September, he laid out a four-point plan to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the group. But with tens of thousands of fighters under their wing in Iraq and Syria, and no nation willing to supply ground troops to fight them, it is clear that IS, like al Qaeda, will be with us for years to come. • 

Kevin Glass - BLS Jobs Report Points To the "Meh" Economy
Posted: 11/7/2014 8:41:00 AM EST
The Bureau of Labor Statistics released their report on non-farm payroll jobs today and estimated that the American economy added 214,000 jobs - pointing to an economy that continues to be sluggish. The workforce participation rate is unchanged from a year ago, at 62.8%. The unemployment rate edged slightly downward over the past month, though, and now sits at 5.8%.


A lot of key numbers when it comes to the numbers of unemployed remained unchanged. The long-term unemployed, the participation rate, the number of people underemployed, and the number of "discouraged workers" - people who have basically given up looking for work - all remained relatively unchanged.

Average hourly earnings remained unchanged, but the length of Americans' workweek is the highest since May 2008.

It's important to look for future revisions as well. This report, for example, revises BLS's estimates for August and September upwards by 31,000 jobs. August, which had been the worst jobs month of the year so far, was revised up from 180,000 to 203,000 jobs added.

Pre-report guidelines pointed to a report that would have come back with over 200,000 jobs, but this falls short of those expectations. Non-government payroll firm ADP estimated 230,000 jobs were added in the month of October, and MarketWatch's survey of economists produced a consensus guess of 243,000 - again, significantly higher than what the BLS actually estimated.

Katie Pavlich - Obama to Host Lunch With Lawmakers at the White House Today
Posted: 11/7/2014 7:45:00 AM EST

After Tuesday's bruising defeat for Democrats, President Obama will host lunch at the White House today with lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle in an effort to move forward in Washington before the new Congress starts in January. 

Most notably House Speaker John Boehner and Senator Mitch McConnell, who will be voted majority leader next week, will be in attendance. 

Late Tuesday evening after election results were in showing Republicans had regained power in the Senate, a story in POLITICO reported President Obama has no plans to pivot on his agenda or come to the middle on issues. Remarks made at a press conference President Obama held on Wednesday to discuss the outcome of the midterms indicated the same. 

Tensions in the room could be high as Obama continues to threaten executive action on illegal immigration, a move both Boehner and McConnell have said will "poison the well." President Obama said earlier this week he will ask the new Congress for authorization to fight ISIS and for more aid to fight Ebola in Africa. Boehner and McConnell have already expressed a desire to get the Keystone pipeline built and to repeal unpopular parts of Obamacare.