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

KCRW's Left, Right & Center


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

Most Recent Episodes

Trump's abortion position? Leave it up to the states

This week, former President Donald Trump took credit for leaving decisions about abortion bans up to individual states, while pledging to maintain that choice for states if he's re-elected. Can we expect the lack of federal guidance on individual rights to continue? And will Republican supporters hold any ill will for his lack of commitment to a classic conservative value? President Biden openly criticized Benjamin Netanyahu's deadly campaign in Gaza following last week's attack on World Central Kitchen aid workers. In an interview with Univision, Biden called for a temporary ceasefire and for Israel to allow more aid into Gaza. It's a significant change of attitude publicly for the president. It could appease some more moderate observers who take issue with Israel's military strategy. But many on the left believe nothing has actually changed regarding U.S. policy with Israel. President Biden vowed to federally fund the rebuild of Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge following a tragic accident late last month. That promise could be slowed by opposition to commit taxpayer dollars towards the project without certain guarantees. We hear and use the phrase "taxpayer dollars" so often, but what does it really mean?

Will congressional candidates suffer from voters' fatigue with Biden, Trump?

Donald Trump and Joe Biden aren't the only ones preparing for a tight race this year. With every House seat and a third of Senate seats up for grabs in November, both Democrats and Republicans are hoping to take control of Congress. But will congressional candidates be able to overcome the unique situation that Trump and Biden's policies and personalities present? More Americans than ever believe religion's influence in politics is dwindling. Evangelical voters have pointed to President Biden's support for abortion access and LGTBTQ issues as signs that he lacks a commitment to religious values, despite his Catholic faith. Those sentiments were on display last weekend in the conservative uproar over Biden's choice to simultaneously acknowledge Transgender Day of Visibility and Easter Sunday. Why did a statement from the president cause so much outrage? Will the lack of religious faith in Biden play a role in 2024? As part of our 50 States series, we explore a proposal from Kansas Republicans that aims to change the mail-in ballot process.

Will congressional candidates suffer from voters' fatigue with Biden, Trump?

What's behind the recent wave of Congressional exits?

Two dozen Democrats and over 20 Republicans plan to retire from Congress this year. Several members of the House have chosen to end their terms early, making the situation especially difficult for an already tight GOP majority. The most recent examples include Wisconsin Representative Mike Gallagher and Texas Congressman Ken Buck. In interviews prior to his exit this month, Buck called out a lack of professionalism in the current Congress. How serious is this wave of exits? And what are some of the underlying factors making it harder for well-intentioned members to do their jobs? Vice President Kamala Harris is campaigning for Joe Biden's re-election with strong messaging on protecting abortion rights. It seems like an opportune time for Democrats to push the issue, with oral arguments in a Supreme Court case over access to the abortion drug mifepristone beginning earlier this week. There is hope that keeping abortion in the news could drive fringe voters to the polls this fall. But does a strong push on abortion miss the issues that matter to the class of voters at the foundation of the Democratic party? How would Biden's re-election bid fare if the current realignment of non-college-educated voters continues? A new law in Indiana seeks to create more space for intellectual diversity in college classrooms. Supporters say the law could change a culture of silencing conservative voices on campus. It's a serious problem, but will legislation provide a real solution?

What's driving the divide between Netanyahu and the White House?

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer upset critics on the right when he called for an election in Israel to remove Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister. Schumer's counterpart, Mitch McConnell, called the move "disrespectful" of Israeli democracy and sovereignty. Many think Netanyahu's administration is on the path to peace in Gaza, but a planned offensive in the southern city of Rafah could worsen the situation. Despite Schumer's perceived overstep, was he right about the need for leadership to resolve the conflict and secure the return of Israeli hostages? Should American officials re-examine their relationship with Netanyahu? The House of Representatives' consideration of a TikTok ban seems to fit with the federal government's larger push to regulate social media. Members of the House say the effort is aimed at improving the content available to Americans online. Does it represent a larger trend of policies accused of stifling free speech? As part of our 50 states series, we examine a question that's taken on increased importance in recent years: Who can we trust to run our elections?

This election season, will media learn from past mistakes?

An election rematch between Joe Biden and Donald Trump became official after the two clinched the nominations for their respective parties this week. Media outlets have experience reporting on the two of them, but the stakes seem higher this time around. Will covering 2024 like a traditional election create the same pitfalls journalists have fallen for in the past? Some of the flaws the media will have to confront were on full display following Special Counsel Robert Hur's congressional testimony. The amount of focus on Hur's assessment of Biden's memory overshadowed coverage of the report and its accompanying transcripts. Our panel shares the issues they saw with the hearing. New York Governor Kathy Hocul proposed several new plans for addressing public safety in New York City's massive transit system. One proposal included sending 1,000 National Guard members and state troopers into the subway to check passengers' bags. Hocul said the decision wasn't based on rising crime numbers, but on the perception that the subway had become unsafe for everyday riders. Is it a smart political move to rely on perception to create a policy? And how does it highlight the hypocrisy in responses to similar proposals in 2020?

Voters, not courts, to decide 2024 election

In a 9-0 decision, the Supreme Court found that Colorado did not have the power to remove Donald Trump from the state's primary ballot. Though the justices had a difference of opinion on how the ruling was decided, their overall agreement was that individual states should not have the power to decide who would be eligible to run for president. That may be the best-case scenario for the 2024 election, according to panelist Mo Elleithee. "For anyone on the left, anyone who's worried about Trump, [this election] has to be up to the voters. Trumpism has to be beat at the ballot box," says Elleithee. As Trump's candidacy moves forward, will the left shift its focus away from trying to beat Trump in the courtroom? Meanwhile, commitment to democracy across the globe remains strong, says a poll from the Pew Research Center. But a closer look reveals that satisfaction with the democratic process may be taking a hit. What's at the root of a growing desire for stronger, singular leaders? Controversy over Google's AI tool Gemini raises familiar questions about the trustworthiness of our institutions. Is it much ado about nothing, or a chance to deeply inspect our ideas about bias?

How Mitch McConnell changed the courts and US politics

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell announced that he would step down from his role as Senate minority leader this November, though he'll still be a senator through the end of his term. McConnell had been the head of the Senate's Republican members since 2006. What motivated the leadership exit? The 82-year-old pointed to personal concerns and the changing politics of his party. What should we remember about the longtime Republican figurehead, and what could the end of his time as a Senate leader look like? Immigration is among the most important issues for American voters. News stories and political messaging about a rise in border crossings play into that concern. But finger-pointing over the failure of the border security bill won't lead to solutions, according to panelist Mo Elleithee. How can a shift in perspective resolve voters' desires for a solution on immigration? Louisiana is the focus of our 50 States segment. The state's governor, Jeff Landry, chose not to opt into a new federal initiative that would extend electronic benefit transfer (EBT) funds for families into summer. Several other states with Republican governors also opted out of the program for 2024. Why might states deny more federal dollars, even if they're aimed at more nutrition for kids?

Will Navalny's death motivate the US to act in Ukraine?

Mourning continues after the death of Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader and one of Vladimir Putin's most vocal critics. Navalny, who returned to Russia in 2021 following an attempted poisoning, died in a remote prison last Friday. His widow Yulia vowed to take up his cause and urged the international community to join her as she seeks justice for her husband's death. Will Putin tightening his hold on power in Russia motivate more direct support for Ukraine from the United States? Crime is trending back to pre-pandemic levels in most major U.S. cities, except for Washington, D.C. The district has seen troubling increases in youth offenders committing carjackings, thefts, and gun violence. For our 50 States series, we look at proposed solutions in the nation's capital, including a controversial crime bill that could extend police powers throughout the city. The Senate is considering new legislation to regulate social media. Will the Kids Online Safety Act help protect children from the harmful impacts of being constantly online?

Are we failing to put Trump and Biden concerns into proper context?

Donald Trump made waves with a speech at a campaign rally in South Carolina last week. The former president recalled an encounter with a leader of a NATO country, where he threatened to withhold U.S. protection from Russia if the country didn't make adequate financial contributions to the alliance. Is it an example of the leading Republican candidate's flair for the dramatic? Are there more serious concerns about the United States' credibility with its allies? Special Counsel Robert Hur completed a report on President Biden's handling of classified documents outside of the White House. The report found that Biden committed no wrongdoing, but included concerning statements on the president's memory and mental sharpness. Democrats have pushed back on Hur's analysis of the president's cognition. Skepticism surrounding the age and ability of the president is nothing new. If his age isn't the weakness critics claim it is, why is the party spending so much time defending it? For our 50 states series, we turn to Georgia, where a conservative civil rights group is suing a venture capital fund aimed at increasing women of color's access to capital. This shifts the affirmative action debate from the classroom to the boardroom. Can we address the difficult realities of disadvantage without focusing on race?

Republicans' horrible, no good, very bad week in Congress

A tumultuous week in Congress centered around the failure of a comprehensive immigration and national security bill. Democrats in the Senate compromised on demands by Republicans for tighter border measures. The hope was that it would help secure more military assistance for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. However, the legislation failed to make it past a procedural vote after pressure from Donald Trump and House Speaker Mike Johnson. Johnson faced issues in his own chamber as well, with the failure of a separate funding bill for Israel and an unsuccessful impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Can Republicans save face after a series of embarrassing losses? Michigan is home to the largest population of Arab Americans and Muslims in the United States. It's also a state that is vital to the hopes of any presidential candidate. President Biden relied on the support of these communities in 2020, but his handling of the conflict in Gaza has upset voters and community leaders who are advocating for a permanent cease-fire. His campaign's efforts to reach out have been met with accusations of playing politics. How can Biden maneuver the political reality of such a deeply personal issue? There were mixed feelings when country star Luke Combs covered Tracy Chapman's hit record "Fast Car" last summer. The pair came together for a moving duet of the smash song at last week's Grammys. Our panel reflects on the moving lessons they took away from the performance amid a polarizing debate.