Left, Right & Center


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Reviews: 4

 May 23, 2019
Fantastic show, about as balanced as a political show can be. Rich Lowry is insufferable more often than not though.

 May 18, 2019

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 Aug 15, 2018

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 Aug 9, 2018


Left, Right & Center is KCRW’s weekly civilized yet provocative confrontation over politics, policy and pop culture.

Episode Date
Impeachment, Ukraine, China, the Kurds

The Ukraine story got a lot bigger this week. Can a lot of this mess be explained by pointing to the departure of the people in President Trump’s circle who contained his worst instincts?

The impeachment story and a health scare have shaken up the Democratic primary. Joe Biden struggles to hit back at the president’s unfair attacks on him. Not much attention has been paid to Bernie Sanders suffering a heart attack, but Elizabeth Warren has gotten quite a bit of attention for saying she was fired from her teaching job for being pregnant.

Then: China is really mad at the NBA for a tweet in support of Hong Kong protesters from the Houston Rockets general manager. The panel discusses how the Chinese Communist Party uses global capitalism to their advantage, and what the US can do to export ideas of freedom to China and not import their restrictions on speech.

Finally: President Trump made a seemingly rash decision to withdraw American military support of the Kurdish forces that control much of the north of Syria. This paved the way for a Turkish invasion. Turkey has a long and hostile relationship with the Kurds. Both are allies of the United States, and the move got a bipartisan backlash from Congress. What motivated this decision? And where does it leave American security interests in the region, particularly with ISIS? Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations joins to discuss.

Oct 11, 2019
It’s looking pretty quid pro quo-y

“As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.” That was a text message from our top diplomat in Ukraine last month, just before this whole mess about President Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden became public. Ukraine was wondering what was going on with the $400 million in militar aid it was owed, and it’s looking more and more like a quid pro quo. Trump says his key focus is corruption.  

Democratic pollster Margie Omero joins the panel to discuss public polling on impeachment and how much Republicans and Democrats should worry about what it will mean for the next election.

Nick Miroff talks about how President Trump has and hasn’t changed immigration policy, and why many fewer people are trying to illegally cross the southern border.

Oct 04, 2019

Nancy Pelosi says the inquiry is on, and it now has the support from nearly every Democrat and therefore, a majority of the House. This may be a rapid impeachment — just two months and just about the new Ukraine scandal. Should this be quick and easy? Or should there be more hearings and more charges? Spoiler alert: no one on the show expects the Senate to actually remove President Trump if he is indeed impeached, so what then is the strategic reason to impeach him? And how might this affect Democrats, including those running for president against Trump and those running for down-ballot races in 2020?

President Trump railed against the whistleblower, insinuating that people who passed along information to that person were spies and spies should be executed. Bradley Moss, a lawyer specializing in national security issues and whistleblower protections, joins the panel to talk about President Trump’s comments, protocols for whistleblowers, and how this story saw daylight in the first place. 

Finally, what is going on with Brexit? Tom Nuttall updates the panel on the mayhem across the pond.

Sep 27, 2019
The secret memo

There’s a whistleblower complaint from a member of the intelligence community that has something to do with President Trump communicating an inappropriate promise to a foreign leader. Multiple outlets are reporting the memo is about Ukraine and the president’s efforts to lean on the Ukranian government to investigate Joe Biden. But the acting director of national intelligence won’t share the complaint with Congress even though they are ordinarily legally entitled to see it. So, information about the complaint has been leaking. What could the president have said to prompt the whistleblower complaint? Evelyn Farkas joins the panel to discuss that, and the attack on a Saudi oil facility, what it means for the American economy and what had looked like hopes for a Trump thaw with Iran.

Then: like many politicians in Washington, we will revisit the fight over Brett Kavanaugh, plus the fight between supporters of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. 

Finally: Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post will make the case for moving your family to rural Minnesota, like he did.

Sep 20, 2019
Let me be clear...

Ten Democratic presidential candidates took the stage Thursday night at Texas Southern University. There were a lot of predictions for the debate, and well, not all of them came to be. For one, we didn’t really get the Biden-Warren showdown many people were expecting. Maybe it was because Julian Castro lashed out at Biden, implying that he’s too old to be president. Josh Barro, Rich Lowry, Christine Emba and Dorian Warren discuss that exchange, plus Elizabeth Warren’s performance on health care, and the on-stage disagreements over guns, trade, China, criminal justice system, and whether it’s a good idea to announce a sweepstakes giveaway of $12,000 from your campaign. Yeah, that’s one actual thing Andrew Yang announced during the debate.

Then: Jarrett Blanc, a former coordinator for the Iran nuclear deal and a State Department official focused on Afghanistan and Pakistan, joins the panel to discuss the outlook after President Trump canceled peace talks with the Taliban and indicated he wants to meet with Iranian President Rouhani without preconditions. Those don’t sound like things John Bolton would propose -- which is maybe why he got fired this week.

Sep 14, 2019
A hurricane and a tweetstorm

Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas and battered the Carolinas, but what dominated the news cycle? President Trump’s insistence that Alabama would “most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated” by the hurricane. He spent the week trying to justify the claim. Did the president put residents at risk?

Then: Brexit politics boiled over in the UK this week. David Henig from the European Centre for International Political Economy joins the panel to discuss the outlook for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a no-deal Brexit, and a trade deal between the UK and the US.

Finally: WalMart’s getting out of much of the gun business after a very deadly shooting at one of its Texas stores, and it will ask customers not to open carry guns in its stores unless they are law enforcement officers. How should we think about actions like this by private companies? Is this social change by corporations? Is it really for their employees? And is there a God-given right to bear arms?

Sep 06, 2019
To the Heartland, from Hollywood

The week started with news from the G7 summit and headline-grabbing fires in the Amazon. Then, new polls this week seemed to indicate the Democratic primary race was tightening around Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Other new polls showed mixed messages. Did the media just hype the it-might-not-be-Biden possibility? Meanwhile, other candidates are shut out of the September debate but vowed to press on while others decided to throw in the towel. And is the love affair between President Trump and Fox News over? Elizabeth Bruenig talks about her reporting on Texas evangelicals and their faith in President Trump.

Keli Goff interviews screenwriter Gregg Hurwitz on his efforts to teach Democratic candidates how to rise above the noise of Twitter and tell stories that connect better with voters in the heartland.

Aug 31, 2019
Two chairmen

Clearly, it’s still August. Let’s review.

President Trump was told he couldn’t buy Greenland from Denmark, so he canceled a visit to Denmark.

The White House floats trial balloons of policies to address recession fears, while the president calls concerns about a recession a ploy by the Democrats and “Fake News Media.”

The markets were on a rollercoaster Friday, spurred by tweets from President Trump, public comments from Federal Reserve Chair Jay Powell, and then more tweets from President Trump in response.

Earlier this week, President Trump said American Jews who vote for Democrats are disloyal.

The Amazon is on fire, and French President Emmanuel Macron wants to talk about it at the G7.

By the way, President Trump still wants Vladimir Putin to be invited back to that meeting of the world’s largest advanced economies.

Automakers are aligning with California to oppose the Trump administration’s rollback of emissions standards.

More Democrats — 130 at Friday’s count — are lining up in support of impeachment.

Aug 23, 2019
Recession fears, immigration rules and ‘electability’

It was a wild week in the financial markets, driven by increasing worries about the global economy. President Trump delayed some tariffs on China so they won’t affect the holiday shopping season — an implicit admission that his trade policy is hurting the economy and his political standing. 

Plus: visas for Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib to visit Israel are denied, and the panel discusses the “electability” narrative around the women in the 2020 Democratic field. A new immigration rule from the Trump administration that could make it a lot harder to get a green card, especially if you’re poor. Randy Capps from the Migration Policy Institute talks the panel through the numbers and whether the rule is even legal.Then Michael C. Davis discusses the risks in Hong Kong that could escalate the crisis in the United States’ relationship to China.

Aug 16, 2019
Trump says he’s ready for gun measures

After last weekend’s deadly mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, President Trump said Friday morning he and Congressional Republicans intend to do something on gun background checks. He said Mitch McConnell is even on board. Republican strategists told the Washington Post they’re concerned that gun issues have hurt their ability to win in the suburbs and contributed to their loss of the House in the 2018 midterms. Is there something genuine here? Might Republicans feel compelled to be seen “doing something” about guns? And what kind of regulation or policy might be possible?

Then, Jane Coaston of Vox joins the panel to discuss the white nationalist movement and mass shootings, the role of national law enforcement in preventing them, and the possibility of a new law on domestic terrorism.

After a dramatic escalation in the trade war with China — it’s now a currency war too — Brad Setser explains why it matters in the United States if the yuan is weakened.

Aug 09, 2019
Who won the second debate?

If you think one candidate won, be honest: was it the same person you liked most before the debate? With so many candidates (still twenty over two nights), the debates almost turned into team fights: progressives who say the party needs to stand for bold change, and moderates who say that's unpopular and impractical, and that you need unifying messages that can build a clear anti-Trump majority. Who's right?

Plus: a discussion of new tariffs and ongoing trade negotiations with China, the Fed's rate cut, Democrats inching towards impeachment, Will Hurd announces he won't seek reelection, and more of the week's news. Megan Mcardle and Helaine Olen represent the right and left with special guest Linette Lopez.

Aug 02, 2019
Mueller says little, but was that the point?

It was finally Mueller time this week, and some say the Special Counsel’s tight-lipped low energy approach was intentional to avoid creating a soundbite for the news cycle. Robert Mueller did confirm that there was significant Russian interference in the 2016 US election, and that the country continues to interfere with our election system. The Democrats seemed to get the better part of the budget deal struck this week ahead of Congress’ long summer break. But some of the Democratic presidential candidates are focusing on issues like medicare for all and healthcare for undocumented immigrants, which a recent poll shows, is not what the majority of voters actually want.

Special guests J.W. Mason *of the Roosevelt Institute and *Joseph Majkut of the Niskanen Center join the panel to do a deep dive into the macroeconomic case for the Green New Deal. Evelyn Farkas of the German Marshall Fund gives her take on what to do about tension with Iran (hint-it involves getting back into the nuclear deal President Trump pulled out of). And we talk about whether Trump’s demand that Sweden release rapper ASAP Rocky is a good idea.

Jul 26, 2019
The Squad fight back

A squabble among Democratic presidential candidates about the best path for healthcare continued this week with sniping by Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders about whether medicare for all or something closer to Obamacare is going to win over voters. We talk about the rare bipartisan agreement over the repeal of the so-called cadillac tax, which imposes a tax on high-cost gold standard health plans.

There was no bipartisan agreement on condemning President Trump’s suggestion that four female congresswomen nicknamed “the squad,” go back to where they came from, even though three were born in the United States. While 95 House Democrats voted in support of impeaching Trump because of his inflammatory statements, only four Republicans did. Trump may have energized his base this week, with thousands of supporters chanting “send her back” at a rally in North Carolina, but he also, at least temporarily, brought together the divided members of the Democratic party who had been feuding in recent weeks.

Special guest Tim Alberta, who wrote American Carnage: On The Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump, says while Trump’s incendiary language may mobilize members of his base, it also may end up alienating more moderate voters whom he needs for re-election in 2020. And we talk about how the compassionate conservatism of George W. Bush may have backfired on the party and helped bring Trump to power.

Jul 19, 2019
A resignation under pressure

Jeffrey Epstein has been arrested and everyone wants to know: what will we learn about the wealthy and powerful people who hung out with him as he oversaw an alleged child sex ring? And what does his having apparently gotten away with it for so long say about our legal system and our society? 

President Trump announced his labor secretary Alex Acosta would resign. Acosta was then the US Attorney when Epstein took a plea deal more than 10 years ago. President Trump also admitted defeat this week in his effort to get a question about citizenship on the 2020 census. Nick Bagley  of the University of Michigan School of Law joins the panel to discuss that and another lawsuit that threatens the Affordable Care Act.

And Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is making the Federal Reserve interesting again. Her critique of monetary policy is shared by Larry Kudlow, Donald Trump’s top economic adviser. Cardiff Garcia  from Planet Money helps us understand how the left-right push for easy money will affect the economy.

Jul 12, 2019
A birthday check-up

Well, it’s a long story. But it’s a healthy discussion to have with different political perspectives present.

 We’ve seen an ebb and flow in the power of the three branches of government. Special guest Matt Yglesias wrote in 2015 that American constitutional democracy as we know it will collapse because it creates too many pressure points, inherently creates gridlock, and often runs against policy making even when there’s popular will. Obviously, a lot has happened since then. Today, the judiciary and executive branches are stronger than the legislative. Rich Lowry notes the plasticicity of the system, built around tensions and competing centers of power, which allows for such swings.

Liz Bruenig says the shear difficulty of making any change to the Constitution is itself a pressure point. And what about states? Why haven’t we seen states experimenting with something other than the presidential-style government?

Then Michael Brendan Dougherty joins the panel to discuss his memoir My Father Left Me Ireland and themes of nationalism, homeland and identity.

Jul 05, 2019
Debating the Debates

Now that the dust has settled after the first major democratic debates, who will be left standing on the next stage? 

While Kamala Harris distinguished herself with a particularly strong performance on the second night, host Josh Barro thinks Joe Biden might still be OK. Did the candidates give President Trump a gift for the campaign by raising their hands to offer up healthcare to undocumented immigrants? We talk about how the candidates barely talked about why so many immigrants are coming to the United States. The Daily Beast columnist and special guest Keli Goff wondered why Marianne Williamson was even on the stage, but Josh says he found her delightful. And we look at the Supreme Court’s ruling on gerrymandering.  

Jun 28, 2019
Let’s call the whole thing off

Tensions with Iran escalated this week and then, Thursday evening, President Trump apparently signed off on airstrikes in Iran only to cancel them. According to reports and an interview the president gave to NBC’s Meet The Press, the estimate of people that would die in the strikes changed his mind and he tweeted that it would not be “proportionate.” CHRIS DOUGHTERY of the Center for a New American Security discusses the events this week and whether we’d be at war with Iran if the strikes had occurred.

Then: EMILY BAZELON joins the panel to discuss an in-depth profile she wrote about Elizabeth Warren, Biden’s follies on the campaign trail, and her book Charged on how the criminal justice system can be reformed by making criminal changes to prosecution.

Jun 21, 2019
Early days in Iowa

Joe Biden went back to Iowa for the first time in weeks and got into a very public fight with President Trump. Biden leads the polls there, but is his lead secure? And what’s behind Elizabeth Warren’s surge in the polls nationally and in Iowa? Natasha Korecki  of Politico updates the panel on how the candidates are being received by Iowa voters, and which candidates are going all in on the state. 

President Trump told ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos he’s listen if a foreign power came to him with dirt on his 2020 opponent. The panel discusses that, the negotiations with Mexico over its southern border, and attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

 Then, Kerry Howley  talks about candidate Tulsi Gabbard and her anti-war platform. It’s not getting much traction with voters, and her foreign policy views are not exactly welcome on the left either.

Jun 14, 2019
Not the most turbulent trip

President Trump visited France, the United Kingdom and Ireland, and on this trip to commemorate the invasion of Normandy, there was less tension between him and European leaders than on previous trips.

As Britain approaches Brexit, what is the role for the United States in Europe? Amanda Sloat of the Brookings Institution gives her take on the president’s trip and more.

Then: Tucker Carlson made a surprising pitch for...Elizabeth Warren’s economic agenda? What is happening? And, President Trump’s strategy of putting trade pressure on Mexico to get what he wants on immigration might be working. Well, the tariffs aren’t making Senate Republicans very happy. Will this turn into a major revolt from the president’s own party? And, with Friday’s job market numbers showing a bit of a slowdown, is the president prepared for the possibility that his trade policies are hurting the economy?

Cory Booker and Kamala Harris have big plans to address the affordable housing crisis. Do they have good ideas? Urban planning professor Michael Lens joins the panel to evaluate their pitches.

Jun 07, 2019
It’s a two-front trade war

President Trump is hiking tariffs on Mexico, even as he escalates the ongoing trade war with China. These tariffs on Mexico will be in place — he says — until illegal immigration is fixed. So, uh, forever? And what happens now with the new NAFTA trade deal? 

Then, the panel reacts to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s public statement with  Conor Friedersdorf. Mueller has spoken publicly while trying not to to say too much. Did he have a implied message about impeachment in his statement? And regardless, what should Democrats do now?

Plus: Bernie Sanders has an idea to give workers more ownership in companies. Is there something in this policy idea that could appeal to...conservatives? President Trump is attacking Joe Biden for being too tough on crime. He’s also still praising Kim Jong Un. Does he have a plan for what he’ll do if Kim betrays him with a new nuclear test?  Tom Nichols  from the Naval War College joins the panel to discuss.

May 31, 2019

Democrats thought they were meeting with President Trump about bipartisan deals on infrastructure but he ended the meeting after five minutes, offended that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had accused him of a cover up. Instead, he gave a speech in the Rose Garden about how unfair everyone was to him. As his administration continues to resist investigative efforts, Democrats are debating whether they ought to impeach him, though Pelosi is pushing to hold off for now.

Does Congress have a duty to impeach the president? If Democrats in the House believe they have enough (or more than enough) to begin impeachment, are they obligated to do so? Susan Hennessey  of the Brookings Institution says if it’s more convenient to not impeach, whether for political means or to focus on other priorities, that’s not a good enough reason. Should there be a mechanism to require impeachment?

If the purpose of impeachment is removal, an impeachment in this instance would not lead to removal. A party line vote in the Senate would not remove the president — assuming the Republican-held Senate would agree to hold an impeachment trial at all — so does impeachment serve some other purpose?

Plus: McDonald’s workers are on strike; the infrastructure week that wasn’t, again; and economist Tyler Cowen's  love letter to big business and why America needs it more than ever.

May 24, 2019
Roe, Casey – what’s next?

Alabama’s legislature voted overwhelmingly to ban abortion in the state, even in cases of rape or incest, and to impose a penalty of up to 99 years in prison for performing an abortion. Lawmakers in Ohio, Georgia, Kentucky, Iowa and Missouri have passed so-called “heartbeat” bills that prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, approximately six weeks into pregnancy. Irin  Carmon joins the panel to discuss the new laws and how this is a shift in the debate, and what a Roberts-led court might consider should it reach the Supreme Court.

Plus: President Trump is ratcheting up the trade war with China. Will he be able to win it? And what’s going on with Iran?

Then researcher and psychology professor Jean Twenge  tells the panel about kids today, a.k.a. Generation Z, or iGen, as she calls them. What messages resonate with the generation under age 24? What risks do they see, and how is their smartphone-centric upbringing affecting how they view politics?

May 17, 2019
Biden’s big lead: will it last?

Well, we have learned more about Donald Trump’s taxes. Not his recent taxes — they’re his taxes from about 30 years ago. They show $1.7 billion in losses over a decade, meaning he paid almost no income tax for a decade. Is that an argument for an Elizabeth Warren-style wealth tax?

Then, the panel turns to the 2020 field. What’s driving Joe Biden’s big national lead? A lot of familiarity, very strong support from black voters, and some other factors. The panel debates the sources of that support. Will it last? What are voters saying? And has the Democratic Party’s lurch to the left given Biden more support? Then, Kamala Harris’s message is that prosecution done right is progressive will. Will that fly in today’s Democratic party? Then: is Bernie Sanders a radical or even a moderate in the context of the Democratic party?

Then Laura Nelson from the Los Angeles Times joins the panel to talk about California’s unique challenges with housing and transportation, and the creative ways it might meet those challenges.

May 10, 2019
Democrats have contempt for Attorney General Barr

Attorney General William Barr testified in one house of Congress this week. He spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee defending his handling of the release of the Mueller report and the public statements he made during the nearly month-long period when he had seen the report but the public had not.

Robert Mueller, the special counsel, wrote Barr a letter that said the first letter Barr released about the report “did not fully capture the context, nature and substance of this office's work and conclusions.” Democratic senators were dissatisfied with Barr’s explanations of his choices about what to say and when. Now there are calls for him to resign.

Economist Emily Oster  joins the show to talk about her new book Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide To Better, More Relaxed Parenting, From Birth To Preschool. Emily talks with the panel about the unfounded advice parents get, why so many studies are flawed, why you can find a study to back up any of your intuitions and why vaccination fears are so difficult to assuage in certain parents.

 Also on the show: the Poway synagogue shooting; interesting polling for Biden, Bernie and Elizabeth Warren; and a conversation about freedom from the Milken Institute Global Conference with Felicia Wong, Gene Sperling  and Kenneth Hersh.

May 03, 2019
Bonus Episode: Right or Left — Who’s Best For Freedom?

In this special episode, Josh Barro, Rich Lowry, Felicia Wong, Gene Sperling and Kenneth Hersh discuss how the right and left talk about economic freedom. The right has long touted its commitment to economic freedom in the form of government restriction. But the left is making the argument that defending economic freedom means fighting against poverty and discrimination and fighting for a social safety net. Which side is more correct about economic freedom, and which side is more persuasive. This panel touches on issues of healthcare and school choice as well as bigger ideas of positive and negative liberties.

May 03, 2019