TIME Military

The New Head of the U.S. Pacific Command Talks to TIME About the Pivot to Asia and His Asian Roots

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Roslan Rahman—AFP/Getty Images U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Harry Harris, left, speaks to journalists during his visit to U.S.S. Spruance (DDG 111), Arleigh Burke–class guided-missile destroyer, docking in Sembawang wharves in Singapore on Jan. 22, 2014

Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr. sees his background as an Asian American as useful in helping the U.S. forge better relationships with its allies and other powers

On May 27 Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr. becomes the U.S. Navy’s highest-ranking Asian American ever when he assumes leadership of the U.S. Pacific Command at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Harris will be responsible for all military operations in a region stretching from California to the Indian Ocean, and from the Arctic Sea to Antarctica. He takes over at a critical time, as the U.S. “rebalances” to Asia and confronts an erratic and nuclear-armed North Korea and an increasingly powerful and assertive China.

It’s a job that takes Harris, 59, full circle. He was born in Japan to a Navy-enlisted man and Japanese mother, and raised on a subsistence farm in Tennessee. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Harris did postgraduate studies at Harvard, Georgetown and Oxford and spent much of his career as a naval flight officer aboard P-3 patrol planes, including three tours in Japan. Affable, direct and with a confessed weakness for “both kinds of music — country and western,” Harris talks to TIME contributor Kirk Spitzer about taking on one of the most challenging jobs in the U.S. military.

You’ve said that the most important event in your life was World War II, yet you weren’t even born then. What do you mean by that?
My dad had four brothers and all of them served in World War II, mostly in the Navy, in the Pacific theater. In fact, my dad was on the aircraft carrier Lexington just a couple of days before Pearl Harbor. They pulled out O.K., but the Lexington was sunk at the Battle of Coral Sea. Growing up in Tennessee, where he and all his brothers lived, they told sea stories about the war throughout my whole life. So I just knew that I was going to serve in the military.

The other thing is, in this job and living in Hawaii, World War II is all around you. I live in the Nimitz House, which was built for Admiral Husband E. Kimmel. He was in charge on Dec. 7, 1941. So not a day goes by that I don’t remember that one of the primary lessons of World War II is to be ready to fight and win the nation’s wars — and to be ready to fight tonight.

You’ve said that your mother had a great influence on your life. She was born into a wealthy family in Kobe, Japan, but ended up living on a small farm in America. How did that happen, and how much of an influence did she have on you?
I learned a lot from her. She lost her home, her school, members of her family and friends to bombing raids. After surviving that, she had nothing and she went to live with an aunt in Yokohama who helped her get a job on the big American naval base in Yokosuka. My dad was posted in Japan and Korea from 1946 until he retired in 1958. They met sometime in the early 1950s and got married and then I came along and they moved to Tennessee.

My dad bought a subsistence farm, with no running water or electricity. So that was pretty rough. But she adapted, and she adapted with a lot of grace. She became an American citizen in the mid-1970s and she always told me that her proudest moments were voting and jury duty. She was really thrilled that I went to the Naval Academy, of course. She never taught me the Japanese language because we had moved to a tiny town in the South, and she didn’t want me to be any more different than I already was. She wanted me to focus on being an American. But she taught me to be proud of both my Japanese roots and my Southern roots. And she taught me about the Japanese concept of giri, which means duty. I carry this with me to this very day.

You are the first Asian American to reach four-star rank in the Navy and the first to head U.S. Pacific Command. Did you have role models when you were young?
I can tell you that being a Japanese-American kid in Tennessee in the late 1950s and early ’60s, there weren’t a lot of role models out there. So that’s when my mother started telling me about the American nisei soldiers during World War II. They left a segregated nation — to fight for a segregated nation. They had no guarantee that when they got back home the things they had fought for would be returned to them. We’ve come a long way in the past six or seven decades because of them and folks like them who fought for what’s right. Their courage made a great difference in the lives of a whole bunch of people at that time, and even today. I’ve always said that I stand on the shoulders of giants, and I mean it.

Before being named commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in 2013, you worked as a military representative to two Secretaries of State: Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. What did you learn in that job?
I got to visit and meet with leaders from about 20 countries in the Asia-Pacific region and that’s really important to me in my present job and even more so in my next job. It reinforced something that I already knew, and that is that American leadership matters and it matters greatly to our friends, partners, allies and competitors abroad.

Your appointment as commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and more recently as head of Pacific Command, was met with great approval in Japan, but perhaps not so much in China, where there still seems suspicion of all things Japanese. Will it be difficult for you to manage expectations, on both sides?
People know when they look at me that I’m an American first, last and everything in between. I’m only ethnically [Eurasian] or ethnically [half-]Japanese. Protecting American interests is my focus. No doubt, Japan is a great ally of the United States and I do hope that my personal background has helped me enhance our relationship. But I think my background has also helped me forge critical relationships with South Korea, another important ally. My father served in the Korean War and I grew up with a deep appreciation for Korean culture.

And I can tell you that I was warmly received in China when I went there last year to finalize a new agreement among navies of the region to help communications at sea during unplanned encounters. This was an important step forward to help reduce tensions at sea and help avoid miscalculations. I’ve always tried to give China credit when they act in responsible ways that adhere to international law and norms, and enhance stability.

The Obama Administration has talked about an economic, diplomatic and military “rebalance” to the Asia-Pacific region. Some skeptics wonder if it’s real, or just rhetoric.
Not only is the rebalance real, but the military part is well on its way. We’ve strengthened our security alliances and partnerships throughout the region. The Navy has already brought our newest and most capable platforms to the area, like the P-8 surveillance airplane, the Littoral Combat Ship, the Virginia-class submarine and new amphibious ships like the U.S.S. America. The Marine Corps has brought the V-22 Osprey out here to great effect and we’ll have the Joint Strike Fighter out here soon. The Navy has set a goal of moving 60% of the Navy out here by 2020 and we’re at about 55% in terms of surface ships now. So I can tell you the rebalance is real.

In your new job you’ll be responsible for an immense and diverse region: “From Bollywood to Hollywood, from polar bears to penguins,” as Pacific Command puts it. What are your priorities?
Our war-fighting readiness, our ability to fight tonight, will always be my top priority. We have to be ready for the unexpected. We have to be ready to prevent strategic surprises. When you are responsible for an area that covers half the worlds’ surface, you need friends. So building stronger relationships and working with our allies and partners, to foster a collective to the security challenges — that’s important.

You’ve expressed deep concern about recent Chinese actions, including construction of a string of artificial islands in the South China Sea — a “great wall of sand,” as you put it. Why should the U.S. be concerned?
I have been critical of China for a pattern of provocative actions that they’ve begun in the recent past. Like unilaterally declaring an air-defense identification zone over the East China Sea, parking a mobile oil platform off the Vietnam coast, and their lack of clarity on their outrageous claim — preposterous claim, really — to 90% of the South China Sea. All these examples, I think, are inconsistent with international laws and norms. They make China’s neighbors nervous, it increases tensions in the region, and I think they are destabilizing for peace in the region.

More than $5 trillion — that’s trillion with a t — of shipborne trade passes through the South China Sea annually. Freedom of navigation is critical. That’s why what China is doing in the South China Sea is troubling. They have manufactured land there at a staggering pace just in the last months. They’ve created about 2,000 acres of these man-made islands. That’s equivalent to about 1,500 football fields, if I get my math right, and they’re still going. They’ve also made massive construction projects on artificial islands for what are clearly, in my point of view, military purposes, including large airstrips and ports.

What do you worry about most? What keeps you awake at night?
The greatest threat we face is North Korea. They have an unpredictable leader who is poised, in my view, to attack our allies in South Korea and Japan. He is on a quest for nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them intercontinentally. He kills people around him who disagree with him, and that’s something we should always keep in mind. North Korea keeps me up at night.

TIME Foreign Policy

U.S. Defense Chief Questions Iraq’s ‘Will to Fight’ ISIS After City’s Fall

"The Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight," Defense Secretary Ash Carter said

(WASHINGTON)—The Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria’s takeover of Ramadi is evidence that Iraqi forces do not have the “will to fight,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said, in the harshest assessment yet from a high-ranking Obama Administration official of Iraqi fighters and the loss of the provincial capital.

Iraqi forces outnumbered their opposition in the capital of Anbar province, but failed to fight and pulled back from the city in central Iraq, Carter said on CNN’s “State of the Union” which aired Sunday. The Iraqis left behind large numbers of U.S.-supplied vehicles, including several tanks.

“What apparently happened is the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight. They were not outnumbered,” Carter said of the Iraqi forces. “In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force. That says to me, and I think to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight [ISIS] and defend themselves.”

The fall of Ramadi last Sunday has sparked questions about the effectiveness of the Obama administration’s approach in Iraq, a blend of retraining and rebuilding the Iraqi army, prodding Baghdad to reconcile with the nation’s Sunnis and bombing ISIS group targets from the air without committing American ground combat troops.

Carter defended the use of U.S. airstrikes as an effective part of the fight against ISIS but said they are not a replacement for Iraqi forces willing to defend their country.

“We can participate in the defeat of ISIL,” he said, using another acronym for ISIS. “But we can’t makeIraq … a decent place for people to live — we can’t sustain the victory, only the Iraqis can do that and, in particular in this case, the Sunni tribes to the West.”

The Pentagon this past week estimated that when Iraqi troops abandoned Ramadi, they left behind a half-dozen tanks, a similar number of artillery pieces, a larger number of armored personnel carriers and about 100 wheeled vehicles like Humvees.

Over the past year defeated Iraq security forces have repeatedly left behind U.S.-supplied military equipment, which the U.S. has targeted in subsequent airstrikes against ISIS forces.

Carter did not discuss any new U.S. tactics in the fight against ISIS.

TIME Congress

Senate Blocks Patriot Act Extension

It's set to expire May 31

(WASHINGTON)—Unable to end a struggle over how to deal with government surveillance programs, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell scheduled a last-minute session to consider retaining the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of domestic phone records.

McConnell, R-Ky., warned against allowing the controversial NSA program and other key surveillance activities under the USA Patriot Act to expire at midnight May 31. He said he would call the Senate into session that day, a Sunday, and seek action before the deadline.

Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky’s other senator and a Republican presidential candidate, called the Senate’s failure to allow an extension of the surveillance programs during a late-night session Friday into Saturday a victory for privacy rights.

“We should never give up our rights for a false sense of security,” Paul said in a statement. “This is only the beginning — the first step of many. I will continue to do all I can until this illegal government spying program is put to an end, once and for all.”

By the time senators broke for the holiday, they had blocked a House-passed bill and several short-term extensions of the key provisions in the Patriot Act.

The main stumbling block was a House-passed provision to end the NSA’s bulk collection of domestic phone records. Instead, the records would remain with telephone companies subject to a case-by-case review.

The White House has pressured the Senate to back the House bill, which drew an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote last week and had the backing of GOP leaders, Democrats and the libertarian-leaning members.

But the Senate blocked the bill on a vote of 57-42, short of the 60-vote threshold to move ahead. That was immediately followed by rejection of a two-month extension to the existing programs. The vote was 54-45, again short of the 60-vote threshold.

McConnell repeatedly asked for an even shorter renewal of current law, ticking down days from June 8 to June 2. But Paul and other opponents of the post-Sept. 11 law objected each time.

Officials say they will lose valuable surveillance tools if the Senate fails to go along with the House. But key Republican senators, including McConnell, oppose the House approach.

In the near term, the Justice Department has said the NSA would begin winding down its collection of domestic calling records this week if the Senate fails to act because the collection takes time to halt.

At issue is a section of the Patriot Act, Section 215, used by the government to justify secretly collecting the “to and from” information about nearly every American landline telephone call. For technical and bureaucratic reasons, the program was not collecting a large chunk of mobile calling records, which made it less effective as fewer people continued to use landlines.

When former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the program in 2013, many Americans were outraged that NSA had their calling records. President Barack Obama ultimately announced a plan similar to the USA Freedom Act and asked Congress to pass it. He said the plan would preserve the NSA’s ability to hunt for domestic connections to international plots without having an intelligence agency hold millions of Americans’ private records.

Since it gave the government extraordinary powers, Section 215 of the Patriot Act was designed to expire at midnight on May 31 unless Congress renews it.

Under the USA Freedom Act, the government would transition over six months to a system under which it queries the phone companies with known terrorists’ numbers to get back a list of numbers that had been in touch with a terrorist number.

But if Section 215 expires without replacement, the government would lack the blanket authority to conduct those searches. There would be legal methods to hunt for connections in U.S. phone records to terrorists, said current and former U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. But those methods would not be applicable in every case.

Far less attention has been paid to two other surveillance authorities that expire as well. One makes it easier for the FBI to track “lone wolf” terrorism suspects who have no connection to a foreign power, and another allows the government to eavesdrop on suspects who continuously discard their cellphones in an effort to avoid surveillance.

TIME Congress

Senate Approves Trade Bill in Victory for Obama

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. walks to a Republican luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington
Susan Walsh—AP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. walks to a Republican luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, on May 22, 2015.

48 Republicans supported the measure, but only 14 Democrats voted for it

(WASHINGTON)—In a victory for President Barack Obama, the Senate passed bipartisan legislation Friday night to strengthen the administration’s hand in global trade talks, clearing the way for a highly unpredictable summer showdown in the House.

The vote was 62-37 to give Obama authority to complete trade deals that Congress could approve or reject, but not change. A total of 48 Republicans supported the measure, but only 14 of the Senate’s 44 Democrats backed a president of their own party on legislation near the top of his second-term agenda.

Obama hailed the vote in a statement that said trade deals “done right” are important to “expanding opportunities for the middle class, leveling the playing field for American workers and establishing rules for the global economy that help our businesses grow and hire.”

Separate legislation to prevent parts of the anti-terror USA Patriot Act from lapsing on June 1 was caught in a post-midnight showdown between a pair of Kentuckians — Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the one hand, and presidential hopeful Rand Paul on the other.

McConnell favored renewal of a program of bulk telephone collection by the National Security Agency, while Paul was unyielding in opposition. “My filibuster continues to end NSA illegal spying,” he tweeted.

By contrast, a two-month bill to prevent a cutoff in federal highway funding cleared with ease as lawmakers covetously eyed a weeklong vacation.

Senate passage of the trade bill capped two weeks of tense votes and near-death experiences for legislation the administration hopes will help complete an agreement with Japan and 10 other countries in the Pacific region.

McConnell, who was Obama’s indispensable ally in passing the bill, said it would create “new opportunities for bigger paychecks, better jobs and a stronger economy.

“The tools it contains will allow us to knock down unfair foreign trade barriers that discriminate against American workers and products stamped ‘Made in the USA,'” he said.

A fierce fight is likely in the House.

Speaker John Boehner supports the measure, and said in a written statement that Republicans will do their part to pass it.

But in a challenge to Obama, the Ohio Republican added that “ultimately success will require Democrats putting politics aside and doing what’s best for the country.”

Dozens of majority Republicans currently oppose the legislation, either out of ideological reasons or because they are loath to enhance Obama’s authority, especially at their own expense.

And Obama’s fellow Democrats show little inclination to support legislation that much of organized labor opposes.

In the run-up to a final Senate vote, Democratic supporters of the legislation were at pains to lay to rest concerns that the legislation, like previous trade bills, could be blamed for a steady loss of jobs.

“The Senate now has the opportunity to throw the 1990s NAFTA playbook into the dust bin of history,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. He referred to the North American Free Trade Agreement, passed two decades ago, and a symbol to this day, fairly or not, of the loss of unemployment to a country with lax worker safety laws and low wages.

Like Obama, Wyden and others said this law had far stronger protections built into it.

One final attempt to add another one failed narrowly, 51-48, a few hours before the bill cleared.

It came on a proposal, by Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who supported the trade bill, and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who opposed it. They sought to made allegations of currency manipulation subject to the same “dispute settlement procedures” as other obligations under any trade deal.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned earlier that its approval could cause Obama to veto the legislation.

Portman, who was U.S. trade representative under former President George W. Bush, scoffed at the threat. “I don’t think so,” he said. “I think he (Obama) understands the importance” of his ability to conclude trade deals without congressional changes.

The bill also included $1.8 billion in retraining funds for American workers who lose their jobs as a result of exports. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said the program duplicated other federal efforts, but his attempt to strip out the funds was defeated, 53-35.

Allies on one bill, McConnell and the White House were on different sides on the Patriot Act legislation.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest prodded the Senate to accept a House-passed bill renewing anti-terrorism programs due to expire June 1, including a provision to eliminate the National Security Agency’s ability to collect mass telephone records of Americans. Instead, the material would remain with phone companies, with government searches of the information allowed by court order on a case-by-case basis.

But the bill was blocked on a vote of 57-42, three shy of the 60 needed, and Paul then blocked several bids by the majority leader to pass short-term extensions of the current programs. Finally, McConnell announced the Senate would return on the last day of the month — with only hours to spare — to try and resolve the issue.

The highway bill was the least controversial of the three on the Senate’s pre-vacation agenda, but only because lawmakers agreed in advance on a two-month extension of the current law. The House and Senate will need to return to the issue this summer.

TIME Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton Unloads on GOP Over Export Bank

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a business roundtable at the Smuttynose Brewery with co-owner Peter Egelston May 22, 2015 in Hampton, New Hampshire.
Darren McCollester—Getty Images Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a business roundtable at the Smuttynose Brewery with co-owner Peter Egelston May 22, 2015 in Hampton, New Hampshire.

Hillary Clinton is out of patience for her Republican rivals and their opposition to an export-assistance program. But she still isn’t taking a position on a Pacific trade deal that has become politically linked to the Export-Import Bank’s renewal.

The Democratic Presidential candidate on Friday unloaded on her GOP foes, calling them cowards who do not make up their own minds and default to the loudest and most extreme voices in the party. The former Secretary of State told an invite-only crowd in Hampton, N.H.. that Americans’ jobs are in the balance, and Republicans would rather scuttle workers’ paychecks than to tell the truth about the Export-Import Bank, which provides financing for U.S. exports.

Clinton said the bank’s opponents are looking to score political points and are shameless panderers “who really should know better.” She did not single out any of her GOP rivals by name, but Sens. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul have all opposed keeping the agency around.

“Across our country, the Export-Import Bank supports up to 164,000 jobs,” Clinton said. “It is wrong that Republicans in Congress are trying to cut off this vital lifeline for American small businesses. … They would rather threaten the livelihoods of those 164,000 jobs rather than stand up to the tea party and talk radio.”

The agency is a favorite target of small-government tea party activists, who claim it is corporate welfare for giant corporations like Boeing. The bank has been a flashpoint for conservatives and it almost lost its charter in 2012 and again last year. Lawmakers secured a nine-month extension for the bank last year, but conservatives are pushing to let the lender’s authority expire this summer.

But complicating the delicate negotiations is a trade deal with Pacific nations that President Obama is seeking. Some Democrats—especially those in the party’s liberal wing—oppose the measure.

Clinton backed the trade deal when she was at the State Department but has remained uncommitted on the issue since she entered the presidential race. She says she wants to see the final terms of the deal before deciding to endorse it or not.

“We don’t yet know all the details,” Clinton told reporters on Friday. “I have some real concerns.”

She said she would need to be assured that currency manipulation is blocked, that the standards would be enforceable and that labor and environment protections are adequate.

“I’ve been for trade agreements. I’ve been against trade agreements. I’ve voted for some. I’ve voted against others,” she said. “I want to judge this when I see what exactly is in it.”

TIME Hillary Clinton

State Department Releases Hillary Clinton’s Emails on Benghazi

Hillary Clinton Campigns In Iowa, Meeting With Small Business Owners
Scott Olson—Getty Images Democratic presidential hopeful and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosts a small business forum with members of the business and lending communities at the Bike Tech bicycle shop on May 19, 2015 in Cedar Falls, IA.

The State Department released hundreds of emails Friday that were stored on Hillary Clinton’s private server during her time as Secretary of State.

The emails, which pertain to the Benghazi terror attacks in September 2012, do not change the official assessment of the incident in which a U.S. ambassador was killed, the State Department said. “The emails we release today do not change the essential facts or our understanding of the events before, during, or after the attacks, which have been known since the independent Accountability Review Board report on the Benghazi attacks was released almost two and a half years ago,” wrote spokeswoman Marie Harf.

Clinton, who wants to avoid the controversy over her emails and Benghazi stretching into the primary and general election next year, told reporters in Hampton, N.H. on Friday that the released emails had previously been sent to the committee investigating the Benghazi attack in 2012. “I’m glad that the emails are starting to come out. It is something that I’ve asked to be done, as you know, for a long time. Those releases are beginning,” Clinton said.

But the release further complicates Clinton’s unusual set-up of using a personal email server for official use. Sensitive information and email addresses in dozens of emails have been redacted under privacy and exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act protecting internal agency deliberations.

According to a senior State Department official, 23 words in a single email were classified Friday at the request of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The email was unclassified while it resided on Clinton’s server and when it was sent to the House Select Committee on Benghazi. The official said the retroactive classification does not mean Clinton did anything improper at the time, adding “this happens several times a month” when FOIA reports are prepared for the public.

“I’m aware that the FBI has asked that a portion of one email be held back. That happens in this process,” Clinton said on Friday. “That doesn’t change the fact that all of the information in the emails was handled appropriately.”

The email in question is in reference to reports that Libyan police arrested several individuals believed to have been involved in the Benghazi attack, and the classified portion appears to refer the details of the local regional security officer’s report on the arrests. State Department Office of Maghreb Affairs Director William V. Roebuck sent the note to Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East Beth Jones, who forwarded it to top Clinton aide Jake Sullivan, who forwarded it to Clinton at her personal address.

Those 23 words will be classified through November 18, 2032—twenty years after the email was first sent.

Clinton has asked that the State Department speed up the release of her work emails. “I’ve said from the very beginning that I want them to release all of them as soon as possible. They are in the process of doing that. I understand that there is a certain protocol that has to be followed,” Clinton said. “It’s beginning. I would like to see them expedited to get more of them out, more quickly.”

The emails provide insight into Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, and Clinton herself has said she wants the public to learn more about her role as the country’s chief diplomat.

With reporting by Phil Elliott

TIME 2016 Election

Why Josh Duggar’s Past Will Hurt Social Conservatives

Many movement leaders have been close to the reality star now accused of child molestation

As a reality TV star famous for being part of a large conservative family, Josh Duggar had a public visibility that made him attractive to advocacy groups hoping he could spotlight their shared opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. Now, as he responds to accusations of child molestation as a teenager, that same visibility could hurt the cause.

A police report detailed grim accusations against Duggar, one of the stars of TLC’s series 19 Kids and Counting. According to the newly released report, Duggar, the oldest child, allegedly sexually molested five minors, when he was 15. Jim Bob Duggar, his father, did not report the incidents to police for more than a year.

The political reaction was swift. Duggar, now 27, resigned from his role at the Family Research Council on Thursday, the same day the report was released due to a freedom of information act request.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, hired Duggar to lead Family Research Council Action, the group’s lobbying arm, in 2013. Duggar was 25, a young, popular TV star who poised to help advance the conservative evangelical political platform. “Josh and his wife Anna have been an inspiration to millions of Americans who regularly tune in to see the Duggar family’s show, and all of us at Family Research Council and FRC Action have long appreciated their commitment to the pro-family movement,” Perkins said at the time.

But Duggar worked to be more than a pop culture icon, he was a favored son in social conservative politics. He served on two presidential campaigns, Mike Huckabee’s in 2008 and Rick Santorum’s in 2012, and during the recent midterms he campaigned for Senate candidates in Kansas, Mississippi and Virginia. Politics were also part of his upbringing. His father Jim Bob served two terms in the Arkansas House of Representatives (1998-2002) and ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2002, around the time of the allegations against his son.

Josh Duggar focused his work at FRC Action on grassroots outreach, frequently fighting to keep the definition of marriage between a man and a woman. He was at the Supreme Court for arguments on same-sex marriage in April and helped to lead the March for Marriage rally in Washington that week. In December he campaigned, successfully, against an LGBT nondiscrimination measure in Arkansas that he said put children at risk. He tweeted that Islam attacked women. He said his family was the “epitome of conservative values.”

Conservative GOP candidates valued Duggar as a way to advance their agenda and leverage his constituents. He has tweeted photos of him with nearly all the 2016 GOP White House hopefuls—Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, to name just some in his timeline—and countless representatives, senators, governors and operatives, from Sen. James Lankford to Sarah Palin to GOP head Reince Priebus. He retweeted politicians who promoted FRC Action’s agenda, and challenged others who stood against it. Just last week he pushed hard on social media to promote the U.S. House’s “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” and tweeted at Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, “Sorry, but you’re the one lacking compassion.”

But what was Duggar’s political value for Family Research Council, his moral example, has now become a cost. The group has looked to the 2016 election as an opportunity to advance their cause, especially since there are so many candidates with similar values on family and marriage. Perkins also currently leads the Council for National Policy, a group that quietly seeks to vet candidates. Plus, everyone is bracing for the Supreme Court to decide a landmark gay marriage case in late June, and the Family Research Council has been at the forefront of working to stop the spread of gay marriage.

That entire agenda is now compromised, and the Family Research Council has to pick up the pieces. Perkins issued a statement Thursday night saying that the group was previously unaware of Duggar’s past, and that Duggar himself made the decision to resign because he realized “that the situation will make it difficult for him to be effective in his current work.” In the statement, Perkins agreed: “We believe this is the best decision for Josh and his family at this time.”

The Family Research Council will have to find a new executive director for its lobbying arm, and attempt to recover the ground lost from this setback. FRC Action has also removed Duggar’s information from its website. (His bio on FRC Action’s website stated: “Drawing from his unique experiences in family, entertainment, politics and business, Josh seeks to use his God-given platform to encourage others to be engaged in the political process.”)

Reactions from the conservative side still remain to be seen. Huckabee became one of the first politicians to back Duggar Friday morning. “Josh’s actions when he was an underage teen are as he described them himself, ‘inexcusable,’ but that doesn’t mean ‘unforgivable,’” he wrote on Facebook. “He and his family dealt with it and were honest and open about it with the victims and the authorities. No purpose whatsoever is served by those who are now trying to discredit Josh or his family by sensationalizing the story.”

Read next:

TLC Should Cancel 19 Kids and Counting

Here’s What Happened to Other TV Shows Embroiled in Controversy Like 19 and Counting

TIME 2016 Election

Mike Huckabee Stands By Josh Duggar

"Good people make mistakes and do regrettable and even disgusting things"

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee supported Josh Duggar on Friday in the wake of reports that the reality TV star had molested five children when he was a teenager.

The former Arkansas governor wrote on Facebook that members of the Duggar family have his support, and that “today’s blood-thirsty media does not understand… that being a minor means that one’s judgement is not mature.” He stressed Duggar’s young age at the time of the incidents and that “the victims wanted this to be left in the past.”

“No one needs to defend Josh’s actions as a teenager,” Huckabee wrote, “but the fact that he confessed his sins to those he harmed, sought help, and has gone forward to live a responsible and circumspect life as an adult is testament to his family’s authenticity and humility.”

Duggar said in a statement after the news broke that he “acted inexcusably.”

MORE Who Are the Duggars?

TIME Foreign Policy

Obama Restates Support of Israel in Synagogue Speech

President Barack Obama delivers remarks in celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month at Adas Israel Congregation May 22, 2015 in Washington, D.C.
Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images President Barack Obama delivers remarks in celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month at Adas Israel Congregation May 22, 2015 in Washington, D.C.

President Obama sought to reassure American Jews that he fully supports the state of Israel while reiterating the need for a two-state solution at a Northwest Washington synagogue on Friday.

“Our commitment to Israel’s security and my commitment to Israel’s security is and always will be unshakable,” Obama said, adding that not doing so would be a “moral failing.”

Obama spoke at the Adas Israel Synagogue on the inaugural “solidarity sabbath,” a holiday meant to consolidate support for Jews amid rising anti-Semitism that falls toward the end of Jewish Heritage Month. On Friday, lawmakers were slated to appear in congregations across the country to mark the day.

In the wake of attack at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a string of anti-Semitic attacks across Europe, there’s been growing attention to the persecution of Jews across the world. Obama noted that the rise of anti-semitism should not be treated as “passing fad.”

“When we allow anti-Semitism to take root, our souls are destroyed,” Obama said. “It will spread.”

The statements follow a wide-ranging interview published by The Atlantic on Thursday, in which President Obama stressed his love for the Jewish state of Israel, telling commentator Jeffrey Goldberg that supporting the rights of Jews abroad is equivalent to supporting the freedom of African-Americans at home.

“There’s a direct line between supporting the right of the Jewish people to have a homeland and to feel safe and free of discrimination and persecution, and the right of African Americans to vote and have equal protection under the law,” he said. “These things are indivisible in my mind.”

On Friday, he reiterated those sentiments, reflecting on his own introduction to the Israeli community. “For a young man like me grappling with his own identity, Obama said, “the idea that you could be grounded in your history as Israel was but not be trapped by it. That idea was liberating”

Obama’s statements to Goldberg and before the congregation at Adas Israel on Friday come amid nuclear negotiations Iran that have put strain on one of the U.S.’ closest relationships. But he made clear Friday that criticism is not going to change his mind.

“I want Israel, in the same way that I want the United States, to embody the Judeo-Christian and, ultimately then, what I believe are human or universal values that have led to progress over a millennium,” he told Goldberg.

And on Friday, before a crowd in a packed synagogue where the rabbi called him a “champion of freedom,” Obama sought to reassure the congregation that he could be both a friend and a critic of Israel.

“It’s precisely because I care so deeply … that I feel a responsibility to speak out honestly about what I feel,” he said.

TIME Obamacare

Got Obamacare? Your premiums are (probably) about to go way up

Health insurers on many state exchanges are requesting the right to increase premiums by upwards of 50%.

President Obama’s signature legislative achievement–the healthcare law popularly known as Obamacare–is facing a potentially existential fight in the Supreme Court in 2015.

But it’s not just the courts that supporters of the program need to worry about. According to a report published Friday in the The Wall Street Journal, health insurers are requesting the right in many states to increase premiums by upwards of 50%. Health Care Service Corp.–the leading health insurer in New Mexico, has asked state regulators to allow it to increase its premiums on average by 51.6%, for instance. Customers of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield in Maryland may face an average premium increase of 30.4%.

Insurers will have to submit their premium-hike proposals to their state regulators, and potentially the federal government. Regulators will review the requests, and may deny the insurers requests if rising costs don’t justify premium increases. But big rate hikes could be necessary to prevent insurers from taking a loss. According to the report:

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee . . . said it lost $141 million from exchange-sold plans, stemming largely from a small number of sick enrollees. “Our filing is planned to allow us to operate on at least a break-even basis for these plans, meaning that the rate would cover only medical services and expenses—with no profit margin for 2016,” said spokeswoman Mary Danielson.

It’s not all bad news, however. Obamacare insurers in some states–like Indiana, Connecticut and Maine–are asking for minimal or no increases to their premiums.

 

 

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