Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Benjamin Bissell
Wednesday, November 5, 2014, 2:06 PM

First of all: Happy Guy Fawkes Day from all of us at Lawfare.

4 years after the 2010 Republican wave, Democrats across the country got shellacked again yesterday. The GOP took control of the Senate outright, the first time it has done so in 8 years, and expanded their lead in the House of Representatives by at least 14 seats. At last count, Republicans grabbed 7 formerly-Democratic Senate seats in North Carolina, West Virginia, Arkansas, Iowa, South Dakota, Montana and Colorado, for a total of 52. Additional pickups in Alaska and Louisiana, where Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu will face-off with Republican Bill Cassidy in a December 6th runoff, look likely. The GOP also protected its own vulnerable underbelly; it avoided a runoff in Georgia, where Republican candidate David Perdue won outright against Democratic challenger Michelle Nunn, and it saw the return of incumbent Republican Senator Pat Roberts, who eked out a narrow victory in Kansas against independent candidate George Orman. More importantly, incumbent Republican Senator Mitch McConnell prevailed handily in Kentucky and appears poised to assume the title of Senate Majority Leader.

Perhaps the most surprising events of the night took place in the Delmarva area, where incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Warner clung to a paltry 12,000-vote advantage in a still-uncalled race in Virginia. While polls before election day had often shown Warner leading his GOP rival, Ed Gillespie, by double digits, classifying the seat as “safely Democrat,” current totals give only 49.1% of the votes cast to Warner and 48.5% to Gillespie. Additionally, a “stunning upset” occurred in deep-blue Maryland, where the Republican candidate for governor, Larry Hogan, defeated Governor Martin O’Malley’s handpicked successor, Democratic candidate Anthony Brown.

As Democrats pick up the pieces, pundits across the spectrum are exploring one question: how did the GOP do it? This Washington Post article explains how the national Republican establishment internalized the mistakes of 2010 and 2012 and worked behind-the-scenes to make this year’s race different.

Even though the ink has barely dried on the voting ballots, the 2016 presidential race is already beginning. The New York Times has more on the country’s next democratic (small-D) exercise.

The New York Times also reports that in the wake of this stunning defeat, President Obama is left “fighting for his own relevance” in the final two years of his term. At Foreign Policy, David Rothkopf characterizes the President as an “island,” saying he “stands alone, apart from his party and the world,” in the wake of the midterms. Foreign Policy goes on to examine the national security implications of the Republicans’ electoral triumph.

The Washington Post analyzes the international reaction to the midterm results, concluding that the “Republican romp” is prompting concerns overseas that the Obama administration’s global reach “will only be further diminished.” It also says that the Democrats’ “humbling results” could “embolden” US adversaries to “prod the limits” of US power. The Irish Times reaches a similar conclusion.

Despite this, some analysts are saying the global economy could benefit with an emboldened Republican cadre in the House and Senate. At Foreign Policy, Daniel Altman argues that the Republican leadership and President Obama may make more headway into vexing issues than expected.

Yesterday, US Secretary of State John Kerry gave a speech outlining US-China relations at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. His remarks, which can be found in full here, presage an upcoming visit by President Obama to China for an APEC summit, where he will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Voice of America writes that in the run-up to meet, a Chinese government mouthpiece, the Global Times, criticized President Obama, calling him an ineffective leader who has done an “insipid” job while in office.

The Wall Street Journal reports that “cracks” are beginning to appear among supporters of the Hong Kong city government. The paper notes that increasing numbers of pro-government groups are openly criticizing the city’s Chief Executive, Leung Chun-ying, and his inability to end his administration’s standoff with pro-democracy protesters. Pro-government entities that have openly disagreed with Mr. Leung in recent days include the city’s legislature’s head, the leader of a pro-Beijing labor union and the head of pro-business party.

According to the Huffington Post, ISIS tortured and abused Kurdish children that it captured earlier this year near the embattled Syrian town of Kobani. ISIS abducted more than 150 boys, aged 14-16, while they were returning home from taking exams in the city of Aleppo. The militants proceeded to beat them with hoses and electrical cables while they were confined. Thankfully, all of the boys either escaped or were released in batches - the last one was reported on October 29th.

Ben Hubbard of the New York Times analyzes the growing rifts between two important, moderate Syrian rebel groups: the Syrian Revolutionaries’ Front and the Hazm Movement. Both groups, despite “limited arms support from the West,” have not been able to hold the line against a resurgent Jabhat al Nusra in northern Idlib province.

Cicero asserts that it is “becoming clear” that the current US plan and coalition will not be enough to defeat ISIS. It further outlines some of the steps necessary to contain moderate rebel infighting and permanently roll back the militant Islamist group’s gains.

A major US army division concluded operations in Afghanistan yesterday, the Washington Post reports. The Army’s 10th Mountain Division formally ended its activities in the country; since 2001, 177 soldiers from the division gave their life while serving. This action comes despite recent doubts by US commanders as to whether or not enough US troops will remain in Afghanistan to train the country’s “fledgling” military.

According to the Los Angeles Times, an Iranian state news website asserts that the Obama administration has agreed to allow Iran to operate 6,000 centrifuges, up from a ceiling of 4,000 proposed two weeks ago. If true, the change would be a significant concession by Western powers as they seek to ink a pact with Tehran by the November 24th deadline.

Al Jazeera divulges that pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine swore in their leaders yesterday despite condemnations from Kiev. Ukrainian President Poroshenko responded quickly to the regions’ declaration, vowing to send unites to key southern and eastern cities still under the government’s control, so as to protect them “in case of a new rebel offensive.” In addition, while saying he was “still committed” to the current peace negotiations, Poroshenko did threaten to cancel a law that gives “special status” to Donetsk and Luhansk. The BBC has more on the evolving situation.

According to the BBC, GCHQ’s Robert Hannigan said yesterday that certain tech firms, including Twitter and Facebook, are “in denial” about extremism.

Breaking Defense reports that the US Navy will not fully recover from the 2013 sequester for another year. Furthermore, the Chief of Naval Operations said yesterday that if the sequestration returns for fiscal year 2016, it could lose two of its five major shipyards.

Defense News announces a “new milestone” in US-Israeli defense-industrial cooperation: an agreement by Israel Aerospace Industry to provide wings for Lockheed Martin’s F-35 joint strike fighters. The $2.5 billion deal will see a new facility at IAI’s Lahav Division produce four wings per month, or up to 811 wing sets through 2030.

Apropos of the F-35, USNI News reports that foreign air forces that have ordered the plane will be allowed to “customize the mission data packages” loaded onto their aircraft.

Parting Shot: the Atlantic previews a new book by noted theologian Karen Armstrong, “Fields of Blood,” that explores an age-old question: is religion inherently violent? Her answer: no.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Bobby wondered whether the recent transfer of a detainee from Afghanistan to the US for trial could be a model for the closure of Guantanamo Bay.

Orin Kerr linked to the audio in Klayman v. Obama, the Section 215 case.

Jack provided the oral arguments transcript for Zivotofsky v. Kerry.

Finally, Jack also brought us an election day edition of the “end of forever war watch.”

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