TIME Japan

The Resignation of Two Ministers Spells Trouble for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Japan minister resigns
Japanese Trade and Industry Minister Yuko Obuchi resigned on Oct. 20 amid allegations of misusing election funds Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

More ministers could fall as Japan faces political instability at the worst time

It must have seemed like a good idea at the time.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appointed five women to his Cabinet last month in a major shakeup designed to show support for female empowerment and help smooth the way for an unpopular political agenda. But all that unraveled Monday with the abrupt resignation of two of those appointees—Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yuko Obuchi and Justice Minister Midori Matsushima—for campaign spending violations.

The controversies could not have come at a worse time for Abe. His economic policies are faltering and his Cabinet approval ratings had dropped below 50 percent even before the spending scandal broke last week. Abe faces tough decisions within the next few months on policy issues ranging from restarting nuclear reactors to imposing a second round of tax hikes. He’s also struggling to repair relations with China and South Korea over historical issues and territorial disputes, even as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing next month looms.

“Abe no longer seems the invincible Superman that some had imagined, and that weakens him both domestically and in Japan’s diplomatic dealings,” says Jeff Kingston, director of Asian Studies at Temple University Japan. “On all of his signature policies — ranging from nuclear reactor re-starts to arms exports, collective self defense and state secrecy legislation—a majority of the public is opposed.”

Trade Minister Obuchi and Justice Minister Matsushima submitted their resignations Monday. They were the first Cabinet members to step down since Abe took office in December 2012—a remarkable period of stability in Japanese politics, where ministers not infrequently are called upon to fall on their sword. It was also a reminder of Abe’s scandal-plagued and inefficient first term in 2006-7, which ended after barely a year. A pension records scandal and the suicide of his agriculture minister during an expense-spending probe, along with poor health for the Prime Minister himself, helped doom Abe’s first go-around.

Obuchi, 40, was accused of funneling campaign money to her sister and brother-in-law and to improperly subsidizing entertainment junkets for supporters. Matsushima stepped down for improperly distributing more than $100,000 worth of paper fans to constituents. Obuchi’s resignation in particular could be a major loss for Abe and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. A telegenic mother of two, Obuchi had been expected to help Abe with the controversial restart of Japan’s nuclear power plants—a wide majority of the public remains opposed to atomic energy—shut down since the Fukushima disaster in 2011.

Obuchi’s portfolio includes authority over the nation’s nuclear power plants and her softer image—a young mother, after all—was expected to soothe public anxiety over plans to restart the reactors. Obuchi is the daughter of former Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, who ran Japan from July 1998 to April 2000, and had even been touted as a possible successor to Abe somewhere down the road. But the close scrutiny that comes with a Cabinet appointment exposed her as a political lightweight and a product of the LDP machine, says Michael Cucek, a researcher and author of a respected political blog in Tokyo. “She represents someone who vaulted into prominence by the death of a sitting prime minister, taking over the family business without ever knowing much about how the whole machine works,” he said.

And that may not be the end of it. The remaining three female appointees have drawn heavy criticism, or worse, for alleged connections to neo-Nazi or right-wing fringe organizations, or for visiting the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine. A 2011 photo of Internal Affairs Minister Sanae Takaichi posing with the leader of the National Socialist Japanese Workers Party was discovered on the group’s website shortly after Takaichi’s appointment last month. Postings on Yamada’s blog seem to profess admiration for Adolf Hitler, and videos posted on the website show Yamada and group members wearing stylized swastikas. Takaichi said she was unaware of Yamada’s affiliation when the photo was taken and that it had been posted to the group’s website without her knowledge. She said she asked for the photo to be removed as soon as she learned of it, and that the group complied.

Similarly, a 2009 photo of National Public Safety Commission chief Eriko Yamatani posing with the members of the far- as Zaitokukai group, which has mounted virulent street demonstrations and hate speeches against ethnic Koreans and other foreigners living in Japan. Yamatani also said she was unaware that her photo had been taken with members of the group or that it had been posted online. She said it was taken down at her request after she learned of it.

On Saturday, all the three of the remaining female Cabinet appointees made formal visits to Yasukuni, where 14 convicted “Class A” war criminals—leaders of wartime Japan—are enshrined. That drew a rebuke from China, which remains deeply skeptical of Abe’s revisionist views of history. That visit will complicate Abe’s efforts to repair relations with Japan’s neighbors—and maybe its citizens, says Kingston. “I think there is a great wave of schadenfreude sweeping across East Asia as Abe’s gathering woes weaken his political standing. The Japanese public, too, are happy to see the Abe juggernaut sputtering as Abenomics fizzles and his culture war to redefine national identity backfires.”

Read next: Japan Court Orders Google to Remove Search Results

TIME politics

Walt Disney, Ronald Reagan and the Fear of Hollywood Communism

HUAC quote
Director Sam Wood, quoted in the Oct. 27, 1947, issue of TIME TUNE

Oct. 20, 1947: The House Un-American Activities Committee opens hearings into communist infiltration of the motion picture industry

Concern over the corrupting influence of the media is nothing new.

On this day — Oct. 20 — in 1947, members of the House Un-American Activities Committee began an investigation into alleged communist influences in the film industry as the post-World War II “Red Scare” ramped up towards its peak. (Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy, the namesake of an era marked by anti-communist paranoia, was not involved with the Congressional committee, although their aims overlapped.) Fearing a conspiracy that would inject propaganda into productions and recruit movie-going Americans to communist causes, the committee subpoenaed more than 40 actors, directors, writers and studio executives, whom they grilled about their political affiliations and asked to name names of other Hollywood communists.

And while 80 celebrities — including Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, Gene Kelly and John Huston — signed a petition denouncing the committee as un-American itself for probing the politics of individual citizens, the anti-communist momentum of the day carried the hearings forward.

Some of those subpoenaed cooperated fully with the committee, confirming its fears that subversives were at work in Hollywood. These “friendly witnesses” included Ronald Reagan, who testified that a “small clique” of communists “have attempted to be a disruptive influence” within the Screen Actors Guild, and Walt Disney, who declared that they had been behind a strike at his studio. Disney felt particularly vulnerable to the Red Menace, according to his testimony, in which he alleged that one communist agitator, the union organizer Herbert Sorrell, swore “he would make a dust bowl out of my plant if he chose to.” Disney knew Sorrell was a communist, he said, because of “having seen his name appearing on a number of Commie front things,” which then went on to smear Disney’s name.

On the other hand, ten screenwriters and directors refused to testify, arguing that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guaranteed the freedom to belong to any political organization they chose. Congress didn’t see it that way, and a month later the men were cited for contempt and ultimately sentenced to a year in prison each.

In prison, one of the Hollywood Ten, as they came to be known, discovered warmer feelings for the committee. Director Edward Dmytryk testified a second time in 1951, outdoing even Reagan and Disney in his friendliness. As TIME reported in its coverage of the hearing:

This time Dmytryk not only admitted membership in the party in 1944-45; he also gave the committee a longer list of party members (26) than any other witness to date and the best summary yet of the Communists’ ‘Operation Hollywood.’

Those names joined a blacklist that destroyed hundreds of film careers. Dmytryk, however, speaking “with the surprised air of a man discovering sin for the first time,” said he believed the names should be known, and communism routed.

“This is treason and it means the party is committing treason,” he testified. “For this reason, I am willing to talk today.”

Read TIME’s 1951 coverage of Dmytryk’s change of heart, here in the archives: Operation Hollywood

TIME 2014 Election

Voters Say Events in U.S. ‘Out of Control’

Poll finds anxiety on a range of issues, from Ebola to health care costs

Call it the Freakout Election.

Two-thirds of likely voters in the most competitive states and congressional districts in the midterm election fight think events in the U.S. are “out of control,” according to a new poll. The survey by Politico found widespread anxiety about the Ebola outbreak, terrorism, health care costs and President Barack Obama’s leadership. Only 36% think the U.S. is “in a good position to meet its economic and national security” challenges.

The poll underscores how both Obama’s low approval ratings and a general sense of disarray are weighing down Democrats just weeks before voters go to the polls to decide which party will control the Senate. A majority of voters, 54%, either strongly disapprove or somewhat disapprove of Obama’s job performance.

Read more at Politico

TIME White House

Ebola Czar Ron Klain Is a ‘Top-Flight Lawyer and Savvy Politician’

Lawyer and politcal operative Ron Klain on May 13, 2008 in New York City.
Lawyer and politcal operative Ron Klain on May 13, 2008 in New York City. Andrew H. Walker—Getty Images

The new Ebola czar is no stranger to making news

The White House confirmed Friday that President Obama has picked Ron Klain as the Administration’s “Ebola czar.” In his new role, Klain will be the point person for coordinating the nation’s response to the virus. The appointment marks a return to public life for Klain, who formerly worked under vice presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden, but who has since spent several years in the private sector.

Though it’s a departure from his current job, the oversight role will no doubt draw on the skills that Klain has spent decades developing. In fact, back in 1994 TIME named Klain — then Chief of Staff to Janet Reno — to its list of 50 people who would make up the next generation of leadership. Here’s what we said about him back then:

In a city where name recognition is synonymous with success, Ron Klain has made a virtue of being unknown. As Attorney General Janet Reno’s chief of staff, he is all but invisible to the public but recognized in Democratic circles as the man to have on your side in a political or legal fight. A rare mix of top-flight lawyer and savvy politician, Klain shepherded the nominations of Reno and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg through the Senate and steered the omnibus crime bill through the turbulent legislative process. An honors graduate of Georgetown and Harvard Law, he clerked for Justice Byron White. Spurning six-figure law-firm offers, he signed on as chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, a job Justice Stephen Breyer once held on his road to the High Court. Harvard’s Laurence Tribe, an admiring former teacher, calls Klain ”one of the most politically talented and intellectually powerful students I’ve ever had” — one destined to lose his anonymity soon.

Over the decades that followed, that paragraph would not be the only time Klain would show up in the pages of the magazine. His name came up in 2000 when Al Gore was questioned about a 1996 campaign-finance scandal, and throughout that year as Bush v. Gore progressed; John Kerry praised his help on the campaign trail in 2004; he was named as a possible replacement for Rahm Emanuel in 2010; he even joked around with Joel Stein in 2012 after the Supreme Court cited a TIME article about Internet privacy.

Today, as the U.S. and the world continue to fight the Ebola outbreak, Klain’s name in the news is sure to be an even more regular event.

Read the introduction to the “50 for the Future” list that included such luminaries as Ron Klain, Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates, here in the archives: The Real Points of Light

TIME LGBT

Houston’s Pastors Outraged After City Subpoenas Sermons Over Transgender Bill

Ted Cruz
Sen. Ted Cruz is surrounded by preachers as he addresses a crowd at a Houston church Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014 about a legal dispute involving several pastors fighting subpoenas from Houston city attorneys. Pat Sullivan—AP

City officials have subpoenaed the sermons of five pastors who oppose the Houston's new equal rights ordinance

Houston, with its left-leaning, openly gay mayor governing an influential conservative and evangelical base, is a city politically divided. That division has been made clear in recent days after the city subpoenaed sermons of several pastors who oppose a recently passed equal rights ordinance for gay and transgender residents. The subpoenas are an attempt by city officials to determine how the preachers instructed their congregants in their push to get the law repealed.

The city’s subpoenas targeted sermons and speeches by five Houston pastors with ties to religious leaders attempting to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, which bars businesses from discriminating against gay and transgender residents. The law, passed into law by Mayor Annise Parker in May, is often derided as a “bathroom bill,” because it allows transgender individuals to choose whether to use a male or female restroom.

This summer, a group of local pastors and religious leaders began gathering signatures in an attempt to get a referendum to repeal the law on this November’s ballot. But City Attorney David Feldman blocked that attempt by throwing out thousands of signatures he said didn’t meet the criteria to qualify, incensing groups opposed to the rule.

Local religious leaders claim Feldman illegally disqualified the referendum and have filed a suit against the city. Mayor Parker, meanwhile, has pledged not to enforce the ordinance until there’s a court decision. But the move by the city to subpoena Houston’s pastors, who have been vocal on the issue and have urged their congregants to support a repeal referendum, has drawn national attention. Republican Senator Ted Cruz said in a statement that the subpoenas were “shocking and shameful,” and Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins has called for the city to drop them as well.

“The chilling effect of government scrutiny of our pastors is unconstitutional, and unconscionable,” Perkins said in a statement. “Mayor Parker’s use of her bully pulpit to silence pulpit freedom must be stopped in its tracks.”

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott also issued a letter saying the city impinged on the pastors’ First Amendment rights and called for the subpoenas’ immediate reversal. “Whether you intend it to be so or not, your action is a direct assault on the religious liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment,” Abbott wrote to Feldman. “The people of Houston and their religious leaders must be absolutely secure in their knowledge that their religious affairs are beyond the reach of the government.”

University of Houston law professor Peter Linzer says the city reached too far in issuing the subpoenas. One subpoena sent to Pastor Steve Riggle, for example, asks for “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to [the equal rights ordinance], the petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity.” However, Linzer says it wouldn’t impinge on the pastors’ First Amendment rights if the city only asked only for sermons or speeches related to the signature drive. “Let’s assume they gave instructions to cheat,” Linzer says. “That would be relevant speech and I don’t see how they would have any First Amendment protection for that.”

Among those fighting the city’s move is the Alliance for Defending Freedom, a religious freedom advocacy non-profit whose lawyers have filed a motion trying to quash the subpoenas. “I haven’t seen any indication that the city is backing down,” says Erik Stanley, the group’s senior legal counsel. “But we’re hopeful that they will. The only thing we can figure is they were subpoenaed because they spoke out against the ordinance. And they urged people to sign the petition. They exercised their constitutional rights to speak out.”

Still, Mayor Parker and City Attorney David Feldman appeared to backtrack on the subpoenas Wednesday, saying they had only recently learned of them and that outside lawyers handled the lawsuit. They argued the city is merely looking for communications from those pastors regarding the petition drive, but that the subpoenas’ language was inappropriate.

“There’s no question the wording was overly broad,” Parker said in a news conference Wednesday. “But I also think there was some deliberate misinterpretation.” Feldman, the city attorney, called the uproar over the wording “ridiculous,” but also has argued that if a pastor is speaking about political issues from the pulpit, it’s not protected. The mayor’s office declined to comment further for this story.

On Friday, The Houston Chronicle reported that the city would remove the term “sermon” from the subpoenas. Mayor Parker, however, said that relevant sermons regarding the petition drive could still be gathered.

TIME Culture

Pot Is the New Normal

Demand for marijuana edibles is pushing several Colorado manufacturers to expand their facilities or move to larger quarters.
Steve Herin, Master Grower at Incredibles, works on repotting marijuana plants in the grow facility on Wednesday, August 13, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. Kent Nishimura—Denver Post via Getty Images

Nick Gillespie is the editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason.tv.

Face it: marijuana is legal, crime is down, traffic fatalities are declining and fewer teens are lighting up

If you want to know just how crazy marijuana makes some people, look no further than the race for governor of Colorado, where Democratic incumbent John Hickenlooper is neck and neck with Republican challenger Bob Beauprez. They’re high-profile examples of a growing backlash against pot, even as none of the scare stories about legal weed are coming true. Drug-addled addicts embarking on crime sprees? Not in Denver. Stupefied teens flunking tests in record numbers? Uh-uh. Highway fatalities soaring? Nope.

About the worst you can say so far is that New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wigged out while high. But she does that from time to time when she’s sober as a judge too.

Neither Hickenlooper nor Beauprez has cracked 50% with voters, which makes sense since neither candidate can stomach the fact that 55% of Coloradans voted to legalize recreational pot in 2012. “I’ll say it was reckless” to legalize pot, averred Hickenlooper at a recent debate. Beauprez goes further still. When asked if it’s time to recriminalize marijuana, he said, “Yes, I think we’re at that point … where the consequences that we’ve already discovered from this may be far greater than the liberty … citizens thought they were embracing.”

In fact, sales and tax revenues from legal pot continue to climb, and more people now buy recreational pot than medical marijuana, even though the former is taxed at much higher rates. Pot has kicked about $45 million into tax coffers since it became legal this year and is projected to come in between $60 million and $70 million by year’s end. Murders in the Denver area, where most pot sales take place, are down 42% (so is violent crime overall, though at a lower rate) and property crime is down 11.5%.

There’s more bad news for alarmists: Pot use by teenagers in Colorado declined from 2001, when the state legalized medical marijuana, to 2013, the last full year for which data are available. When medical marijuana was introduced, critics worried that any form of legalized pot would increase usage among kids, but the reverse happened. It remains to be seen if that trend continues in the face of legal recreational pot, but Colorado teens already use dope at lower rates than the national average. So much for the Rocky Mountain High state.

Yet Colorado pols are in good company in harshing on legal weed. The recovering addict and former Congressman Patrick Kennedy heads Safe Alternatives to Marijuana (SAM) and categorically argues, “we cannot promote a comprehensive system of mental-health treatment and marijuana legalization.”

Researchers who find that regular marijuana use among teenagers correlates with mental problems, academic failure and other bad outcomes get plenty of ink, even though such studies fail to show causation. Underperforming students and kids with problems abuse alcohol and smoke cigarettes at higher rates, after all. In any case, even advocates of legalization argue that teens shouldn’t be smoking pot any more than they should be drinking. Given the drug’s pariah status for decades, it’s not surprising that the science is both unsettled and highly politicized.

Will legalizing pot increase access to a drug that law-enforcement officials concede has long been readily available to high schoolers? “Criminalizing cannabis for adults has little if any impact on reducing teens’ access or consumption of the plant,” argues the pro-legalization group NORML, a claim supported by declining teen use during Colorado’s experience with medical marijuana. Certainly pot merchants who are registered with and regulated by the state are more likely to check IDs than your friendly neighborhood black-market dealer.

At least this much seems certain: In a world where adults can openly buy real pot, you’re also less likely to read stories headlined “More People Hospitalized by Bad Batch of Synthetic Marijuana.” And support for legalization isn’t fading. The market-research firm Civic Science finds that 58% of Americans support laws that “would legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana like alcohol.”

That figure obviously doesn’t include either candidate for governor of Colorado. But just like the rest of the country, whoever wins that race will have to learn to live with pot being legal, crime being down, traffic fatalities declining and fewer teens lighting up.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME 2014 Election

On the Road with Rand Paul

Can he fix what ails the GOP?

The tattooed and pierced longhairs never showed up to see Senator Rand Paul speak with students at the University of South Carolina in Columbia last month. Those in attendance drew instead from the preppy set, with brushed bangs, blue blazers and proper hemlines, some wearing sunglasses on neck straps like jock jewelry. They mostly hailed from college Republican circles, and the room where they gathered, a wood-stained memorial to the state’s old power structure, was named for the politician who led the fight to protect school segregation in the 1960s.

You could call them activists, even rebels in their way. But this was not a gathering of losers and outcasts. Paul knew this. And that was the whole point…

Read the full story here.

TIME politics

We Should Treat Gun Violence the Way We Do Cancer and Heart Disease

YouTube / Elliot Rodger

Khawar Siddique, MD, MBA, is a spine surgeon and neurosurgeon.

The so-called “gun violence restraining order” recently passed in California is a commonsense policy that balances the need for public health and doesn't tread on the rights of gun owners

As a neurosurgeon and spine surgeon, I have had a front row seat to gun violence. Whether shot by someone else or self-inflicted, a bullet traveling through the brain and spine can cause extraordinary damage. You can’t put a brain back together. If we do succeed at preserving a life, the victim of gun violence is often left with tragic neurologic deficits such as paralysis, speech problems and cognitive issues.

Prevention is the key to improving health outcomes for gun injury victims. We’ve made great strides in diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes by investing in preventative medicine. Our health care system and our citizens have benefited as a result. Gun violence is no different. We need tools to help prevent gun violence and gun suicide.

Last month, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that will do just that. The so-called “gun violence restraining order” is a commonsense policy that balances the need for public health and safeguards the rights of gun owners. It answers a basic question we ask ourselves after horrific instances of mass violence or suicide: What could we have done to stop this?

AB-1014, now law, is modeled on the concept of domestic violence protection orders. Just as a woman can seek protection from her abuser in the courts, the law allows family members and key members of the community, like law enforcement, to petition a judge to provide temporary firearms prohibitions for those deemed to be in crisis. Whether protecting against suicide or mass violence, it will save lives.

This problem is not theoretical. There are far too many instances where individuals show signs of impending violence but there are no means to prevent them access to firearms. The recent shooting in Isla Vista is an example where limiting access to guns could have saved lives. Now, with the signing of this law, family members and police officers have legal means to prevent a potentially dangerous person from accessing firearms or ammunition.

Gun violence restraining order laws are wholly consistent with the Second Amendment. As a gun owner myself, I know the worst thing that can happen to our rights is to see irresponsible individuals use them to commit crimes. In the case of these new laws, there must be sufficient evidence for a judge to believe that an individual poses a danger to others or oneself before the gun violence restraining order can be issued. In California, the law would penalize anyone who files a petition with false information or uses a gun violence restraining order to harass another person.

You can pass this commonsense law in your state, too. Americans for Responsible Solutions, the gun violence prevention group headed by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, has toolkits for state legislators and advocates telling you exactly how to get it done. Gun violence restraining orders will help keep guns out of the hands of individuals proven to be a threat to the community or themselves while ensuring due process for all involved. As a physician, a citizen and a gun-owner, I encourage the legislatures and governors from across this great nation to act boldly and with common sense.

Khawar Siddique, MD, MBA, is a spine surgeon and neurosurgeon who resides in Los Angeles.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME 2014 Election

America Needs More Crazy Debates Like In Vermont

C-Span

Vermont's gubernatorial debate was a sure cure for the nation's political blues

Most televised political debate in the United States is a lifeless, platitude-laden sideshow with virtually no value except as a grim form of entertainment, like watching democracy itself fed to the lions at the Coliseum. That is why Vermont’s recent gubernatorial debate, in which every candidate on the ballot was invited to participate, was such a breath of fresh air.

Vermont’s Democratic incumbent governor Peter Shumlin has a virtual lock on the election, with a double-digit lead over Republican challenger Scott Milne. Fortunately, the five other candidates on the ballot made for a lively discussion October 9.

In a world where political campaigning has been largely reduced to platitudes and soundbites, Vermonter and revolutionary socialist Pete Diamondstone called for the overthrow of the entire capitalist system and the outlawing of private enterprise. His solution for the problem of illegal drug use is to legalize everything and make the government the national drug dealer. One need not pass judgement on the quality of his program, but if suggesting that Uncle Sam start slinging smack isn’t thinking outside the box, pretty much nothing is. Plus the whole time, he appeared to be wearing jorts with suspenders and tall white socks, which counts for something as long as we’re going to fight about whether or not the president is allowed to wear a tan suit.

Emily Peyton
Emily Peyton

So much is taken for granted when our politicians get together to argue. Not so in Vermont last week, when self-described “lightworker” and most-chill candidate ever Emily Peyton answered a question about healthcare by suggesting we start by alleviating poverty. With poverty a major player in our obesity epidemic, her point may be too often left aside in our debates on healthcare. Peyton’s comment that money spent on healthcare “ought to go to the healers” may be a little rich in New Age lingo but her point is worth considering, with administrative costs a major driver of the increase on the pricetag of going to the doctor.

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 5.05.13 PM
Bernard Peters

And it’s not just the refreshing willingness of dark horse candidates to state the obvious that endears one to this debate, but the humble honesty on display. To a question about how to lower the cost of college in Vermont, Bernard Peters—who is either a Duck Dynasty fanboy, a very dedicated hipster or just extremely legit—said, more or less, that he had no idea. Later the Libertarian candidate Dan Feliciano was asked about the incumbent governor’s program to get drug offenders into recovery rather than behind bars. He said, without equivocation, that he’d do literally nothing different. Good luck finding a mainstream candidate who would publicly take that position.

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 6.06.40 PM
Cris Ericson

There’s the pure entertainment factor too (which was in no short display at Idaho’s similarly bizarre debate earlier this year). Through it all Cris Ericson and her extraordinary hat were fighting the good fight for highway rest area enthusiasts, chemtrail conspiracy theorists and food stamp recipients, who, she noted for reasons unknown to the rest of us, might be using food stamps to buy lottery tickets to get rich to be able to afford fruits and vegetables. So there’s also that, whatever that is.

Two of the candidates said one of the most important things they’d do if given the power is ensure that debates are open to every candidate on the ballot. Until Game of Thrones comes back there’s no better entertainment out there and with the dark horses thrown into the mix we might actually have some useful discussion.

You can watch the entire debate here.

TIME politics

Michelle Obama: ‘Turnip for What?’

Michelle Obama
First Lady Michelle Obama is joined by school children as they harvest peanuts in the annual fall harvest at the White House on Oct. 14, 2014 Susan Walsh—AP

The First Lady films a hilarious vine about veggie consumption

First Lady Michelle Obama has brought her fresh-produce campaign to the most appropriately named venue yet: the six-second video app Vine.

The advocate of healthy eating — known for her White House garden — poses with a turnip in her brief video clip, before asking “Turnip for what?” It’s a fun play on DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s summer hit “Turn Down for What,” a song that’s had a longer-than-expected life as a voter-registration anthem. It was the perfect response to an Obama impersonator using Vine to ask the First Lady how many calories she burns when she “turns up.”

Perhaps this is the easiest and most cost-effective way to remind a generally disaffected young voter base of the appeals of the Obama presidency leading into the midterm elections. Or maybe the First Lady really just wanted to boogie with a root vegetable. Either way, this is perhaps the most unscripted Michelle Obama we’ve seen yet — willing to expend far more energy on TV appearances from The Biggest Loser to Parks and Recreation, none of which has caught the public’s imagination quite so vividly. We look forward to whatever may be her next veggie-themed song parody (good luck, as no veggie names spring to mind as rhymes for “All About That Bass” or “Shake It Off”) — or just the next time she has fun advocating roughage consumption.

Read next: Michelle Obama Thinks Pencils Are a Crummy Halloween Gift

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