KCRW's Left, Right & Center Provocative, up-to-the-minute, alive and witty, KCRW's weekly confrontation over politics, policy and popular culture proves those with impeccable credentials needn't lack personality. Featuring four of the most insightful news analysts anywhere, this weekly love-hate relationship of the air reaches about 50,000 of the most influential radio listeners in Southern California.
KCRW's Left, Right & Center

KCRW's Left, Right & Center


Provocative, up-to-the-minute, alive and witty, KCRW's weekly confrontation over politics, policy and popular culture proves those with impeccable credentials needn't lack personality. Featuring four of the most insightful news analysts anywhere, this weekly love-hate relationship of the air reaches about 50,000 of the most influential radio listeners in Southern California.

Most Recent Episodes


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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

20 in for 2020

That's 20 declared candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination. Biden already leads the national primary polls, but he has a lot of detractors in the party. And, what should we make of his campaign announcement slamming President Trump? As for the rest of the field, who's getting the most coverage, and why? Is it deserved? Olivia Nuzzi joins the panel to discuss her reporting on Sen. Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, and other candidates. Meanwhile, in Washington, everyone's talking about impeachment. It seems House Speaker Nancy Pelosi might be changing her tune on whether the House should seek to impeach President Trump. Is that a major political risk for the party with a field of candidates this large? Then, speaking of risk, economist and journalist Allison Schrager talks about different kinds of risk: how we manage risk, how much government should manage risk for us, and what we can learn from unusual people who encounter unusual risk all the time. Her new book is called An Economist Walks Into A Brothel: And Other Unexpected Places to Understand Risk.

The Mueller report is out

On Thursday, we all finally got to see Robert Mueller's report on his investigation — or most of it, anyway. Volume I of the report looks at whether there was any conspiracy or coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, related to Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 elections. Volume II of the report looks at President Trump's efforts to interfere with the investigation itself, identifying ten such episodes, including: Trump asking then-FBI director James Comey to let the investigation of Michael Flynn go, directing White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller, and such. All of this raises the possibility that the president criminally obstructed justice, though Mueller declined to offer a conclusion either way on that question. Ken White joins the LRC panel to discuss the report, what it means, and what should be done next. Then Igor Volsky talks about his plan for tighter regulation of guns in the United States and how public opinion makes it easier for Democrats to take a more aggressive stance on gun control. Plus: Bernie Sanders does a town hall on Fox News, and Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker are speaking openly about their Christian faith — will it bring some evangelical voters who went for Trump back to the Democrats?

Upheaval at the Department of Homeland Security

News stories say President Trump is frustrated by his appointees' failure to stop the surge of families and asylum seekers entering the United States. While the level of total unauthorized border crossings is not unprecedented, the level of crossings by these kinds of people appears to be — and because of the government's limited ability to detain, rapidly deport or adjudicate families and asylum seekers, the crisis there continues to escalate. The power struggle within the Trump administration over immigration also appears to be dialing back up the White House leak wars. The Washington Post reported this week the White House twice proposed to release detainees in small- and mid-size cities with sanctuary city policies, an effort to use human beings to troll the libs. Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute joins the panel to discuss DHS leadership, what's ahead for the agency and immigration policy ideas from a libertarian perspective. Should there be a policy that limits immigration at all? Should visas have a price tag determined by the market? Then Vanessa Williamson of the Brookings Institution joins to talk about the first tax season under the new tax law. How do Americans think about the new law, and do they still believe paying taxes is their civic duty? And does reforming how we file and pay our taxes have a chance? Plus: Julian Assange has been arrested. What's next for him, and should his arrest make free speech advocates concerned? And Attorney General Bill Barr said in a Senate hearing this week that the 2016 Trump campaign was spied on by the government. Should the investigators be investigated?

The links between a president and his golf game

Sportswriter Rick Reilly says to understand President Trump, you need only understand how President Trump plays golf. And, he cheats at golf. A lot. Reilly relates Trump's golf game and his golf business to the way he boasts, makes deals, and responds to crises. Supreme Court analyst and biographer Joan Biskupic has a new book out about Chief Justice John Roberts. She tells the panel how Roberts is reshaping the court and how his surprise decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act came about. Plus: Joe Biden may soon announce he's running for president, but a number of women say they've already had a touch too much of him. Is 2019 the wrong year for Joe Biden to invade America's personal space? President Trump is heading to Southern California to visit the border and do some fundraising after making threats this week to close the border entirely.

The Mueller Investigation ends

Last Friday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller delivered the final report on his investigation to the Justice Department. On Sunday, Attorney General Bill Barr released a four-page letter summarizing the findings: the investigation did not establish coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and no finding about whether the president obstructed justice. President Trump feels vindicated. Should he? Jonathan Chait joins the panel to discuss that and President Trump's intention to put former editorial writer Stephen Moore on the Federal Reserve board. Then, the Trump Administration wants the courts to throw out the Affordable Care Act, and the president wants Republicans to try again to come up with their own healthcare plan. Will they? Sara Kliff discusses that and the ongoing Democratic debate over healthcare, and her reporting on surprise medical bills and policy proposals to end them.

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