Left, Right & Center


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

  • 50 minutes 29 seconds
    Did Biden’s NATO presser save his candidacy?

    This past week, President Biden ended the NATO three-day summit with a solo press conference. Since the first presidential debate, Americans have questioned his ability to fulfill another term in the White House. Journalists brought up this issue again to Biden during today’s press conference — did he smooth over concerns?

    The Republican National Committee’s party platform hones in most on the “migrant invasion.” Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” opens the 20-item agenda, which is an attempt to distance the campaign from Project 2025. Noticeably less prevalent in the platform: abortion. The panel looks at what’s currently in the platform and whether the proposals will lead to policy.

    In 2022, the state of Alabama voted to ban slavery — including its use as punishment for a crime. This year, six incarcerated people are suing Governor Kay Ivey and the Department of Corrections for forced labor. The lawsuit is the first of its kind to prohibit involuntary servitude and protect the prisoners from retaliation. As part of Left, Right, and Center’s 50 states series, the panel looks at the rights of people behind bars in Alabama. 

    12 July 2024, 7:00 am
  • 50 minutes 30 seconds
    What’s the long-term impact of SCOTUS’ presidential immunity ruling?

    On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that Trump’s actions during his presidency were within constitutional power. The prosecution of his role in the January 6, 2021 insurrection will be delayed until after the election this November. The Left, Right, and Center panel discusses concerns about presidential power and what this would mean after the election. 

    In Oklahoma, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters released a memo saying the Bible will be taught from grades 5 to 12. Walters said numerous Bible references are in political documents, therefore they are part of history. Similarly, Louisiana has made it the law to include the Ten Commandments in classrooms. School systems have become the battleground of church and state separation.

    This week’s installment of our 50 states series looks at anti-masking laws. Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, along with leaders in North Carolina and New York, are looking to ban masks in light of protest clashes over the conflict in Gaza. Would these laws encroach upon the rights of demonstrators? What about medical concerns in light of the COVID pandemic?

    5 July 2024, 7:00 am
  • 50 minutes 30 seconds
    No spinning this one: Analyzing Trump, Biden debate performances

    This week in Atlanta, Georgia, a current and former president debated each other for the first time in U.S. history. But the highly anticipated clash between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump may have left many viewers with more questions than answers. Biden’s weak performance sparked panic among Democrats — will his campaign overcome this? Will the bluster and falsehoods of Donald Trump stick with voters? Plus, what impact did CNN’s moderators and a new set of debate rules have?

    U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy recently declared gun violence a public health crisis, and that young people are particularly likely to become targets. The announcement came after a school shooting occurred in one Seattle community, reigniting discussions about the role of on-campus law enforcement officers. Can those officers effectively keep kids safe?

    28 June 2024, 7:00 am
  • 50 minutes 30 seconds
    Will presidential candidates fare better than what polling suggests?

    How voters feel about the presidential candidates — and what issues are most important to them — are the focus of a new PBS/Marist poll. The economy is their top priority, and democracy comes in second. Hot-button subjects like abortion and foreign policy are noticeably absent. Meanwhile, how much impact will culture wars and tribalism have on winning over voters?

    In North Dakota this week, voters approved a ballot measure that set an age limit on the state’s members of Congress. It says that if a Senate or House candidate would be 80 or older at the end of their term, they would be ineligible to run for those positions. The Supreme Court may have to review the measure’s constitutionality. 

    Joe Biden and Donald Trump will debate at CNN’s Atlanta studios next Thursday. Saying the wrong thing can sink campaigns and become tent poles for lasting narratives. KCRW reviews quips and blunders from past presidential debates, and previews what to expect from Biden and Trump now. 

    21 June 2024, 7:00 am
  • 50 minutes 28 seconds
    Are Trump’s claims for political revenge more than rhetoric?

    Following his felony conviction, Donald Trump has spent the last week talking about revenge on his political enemies, such as throwing the president’s wife in jail. Some voters are concerned about the dramatics and inflammatory terminology, particularly Project 2025, the conservative playbook for realigning the federal government. How realistic are those ideas, and what are the safeguards to maintain the balance of prosecutorial power?

    Over the weekend, an IDF operation led to the rescue of four Israeli hostages and the reported deaths of over 200 Palestinian civilians. Journalist Abdullah Al-Jamal and his family were killed in the raid. Initial reports from Israel claimed that three of the hostages were in Al-Jamal’s home. The reporter was also linked to Al-Jazeera, an international media outlet that the Israeli government banned last month for alleged ties to Hamas. The Palestinian Chronicle, where Al-Jamal worked, is now disputing his connection to Al-Jazeera, as well as the initial reports on the hostage claims. The messy situation raises larger questions about the role of activism in journalism. 

    Last year, a commonwealth judge in Pennsylvania ruled that the state’s public school system was unconstitutional. The verdict found that outdated textbooks, dilapidated facilities, and inadequate funding failed to produce fair academic opportunities for students in low-performing districts. Like in many other states, school choice advocates in Pennsylvania are promoting a new voucher program as a solution to their education system’s woes. The vouchers would give scholarships to students in the lowest-achieving schools, so they could transfer to private institutions. Results on voucher effectiveness are mixed. As part of our 50 states series, KCRW discusses the choices parents are weighing in the ongoing debate over vouchers and public school funding.

    14 June 2024, 7:00 am
  • 50 minutes 29 seconds
    Will Americans believe in Biden’s ability to lead?

    Hunter Biden’s trial on federal gun charges got underway this week. He faces an embarrassing and revealing court case, plus possible prison time if he’s found guilty. According to Sarah Isgur, senior editor of The Dispatch, the best thing for both Hunter and his father’s re-election campaign would be a plea deal, as she wrote for The New York Times. How would the president have to respond if a guilty verdict does come down? And what do the troubles facing Joe Biden in his son’s case reveal about his struggles on other issues?

    One of those issues: immigration. Earlier this week, Joe Biden enacted an executive order that imposes new limits on asylum seekers coming to the United States. The move follows an unsuccessful push for bipartisan legislation to overhaul the immigration process at the border. In a speech, Biden emphasized the need for action due to the legislation’s failure. It could win over people in the center who want something done about the migrant crisis, but will it cost him support from his base?

    Puerto Rico’s status as a U.S. territory has long dominated its politics. For our 50 states series, KCRW tries to unwrap the growing influence of culture and societal issues shifting the island’s political scene.

    7 June 2024, 7:00 am
  • 50 minutes 29 seconds
    With Trump’s trial over (for now), what’s next?

    A New York jury found Donald Trump guilty on 34 counts of falsifying business records. It is the first time a former president has been convicted of a crime. The case was rooted in Trump’s attempt to keep a damaging story about himself and actress Stormy Daniels out of the news during the 2016 election. With any potential punishment still far out, the focus now is on how the conviction will impact politics in the upcoming weeks and months. Will Trump or Joe Biden find the best way to capitalize on the ruling? Will voters who were already unmoved by the proceedings be stirred to action?

    Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito notified Congress that he would not recuse himself from cases involving the January 6th riots or the 2020 election. Members of Congress were calling for a recusal following reports that flags associated with the Stop the Steal movement were flown over his residence and a vacation home in 2021 and 2023. Alito claims his wife put up the flags and he was not involved. The situation rekindled conversations about justices’ responsibilities for their spouses’ actions. But more concerning is how this incident (and the Donald Trump trial) plays into growing levels of public mistrust in the judiciary.

    31 May 2024, 7:00 am
  • 50 minutes 29 seconds
    How AI and deepfakes could affect this election

    The renewed bill — to address the ongoing border crisis — fails to advance from the Senate following a 43-50 procedural vote. The bipartisan legislation would have provided more money for border security and tightened asylum restrictions, among other provisions. Republican detractors viewed this latest push as a political stunt, while some progressives argued that it was too punitive. With immigration consistently rising as a top issue for voters, how might this latest congressional failure to act influence the election?  

    In a presidential election with two extremely unpopular candidates, down-ballot politicians in tight races are distancing themselves from the top of the ticket. They’re hoping to capitalize on popular policies without taking on too much of their party’s baggage. Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s loyalists are flocking to his New York courtroom in a show of solidarity. Are average voters willing to separate candidates from their parties, and is Trump’s trial reaching anyone beyond political junkies?   

    AI and deepfakes pose an unprecedented threat to election integrity. With Congress and the law slow to keep pace with rapid advances in this technology, can we rely on tech companies to step up? And is government regulation of political speech a slippery slope, even in the case of misinformation and disinformation? 

    24 May 2024, 7:00 am
  • 51 minutes 47 seconds
    Will debates give Biden or Trump an edge?

    President Biden is trailing Donald Trump in several battleground states, according to new polling from the New York Times and Siena College. While polling this far out from an election often doesn’t represent final results, it can reveal trends that candidates should seriously consider, says Mo Elleithee, executive director at Georgetown University's Institute of Politics and Public Service. In Biden’s case, the polls indicate less support among young voters, nonwhite voters, and blue collar workers. With Biden and Trump agreeing to a series of debates in June and September, can the president use the head-to-head settings to regain ground with those crucial groups?

    The Democratic National Convention will take place in Chicago this summer. There are some concerns that the contentious atmosphere surrounding the convention, including nationwide campus protests and anger with the president’s support for the war in Gaza, could lead to a scene similar to the unrest at 1968’s DNC, also in Chicago. Are those concerns overblown? And would more protests allow Donald Trump to emerge as a figure who can end the growing sense of chaos among voters?

    Kansas is the focus of our 50 states series this week. Mandatory diversity, equity, and inclusion statements have become a growing legal concern for legislators and administrators in Kansas and at universities across the country. Does requiring a commitment to DEI fall mean forcing an ideology on faculty and students?

    17 May 2024, 7:00 am
  • 50 minutes 29 seconds
    Why Netanyahu’s latest move is a threat to a free press

    The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shuttered the Israel offices of news network Al Jazeera this week. The country blocked the network’s website, and Israeli police raided their studios, confiscating broadcast equipment. Americans would expect this move from an authoritarian leader, not a democratic ally. Will the United States’ relationship with Netanyahu’s country change how it views the threat to press freedom?

    South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem is under fire for several controversies from her new memoir, including a reference to shooting a 14-month-old puppy she described as “untrainable.” Noem is pushing back at the criticism amid a bid to be Donald Trump’s running mate this fall, but her pursuit of the vice presidency may be over. KCRW speculates on Trump’s other options for VP, and wonders aloud why other Republican politicians seem unable to overcome controversy as easily as the former president.

    There are plenty of reasons to argue that the news ecosystem is biased — does that also apply to satire? Hear an excerpt from the Cascade PBS Ideas Festival, where the Left, Right and Center panel discussed political comedy and applauded the uniting power of karaoke.

    10 May 2024, 7:00 am
  • 50 minutes 30 seconds
    Is the media focus on student protests missing the mark?

    Pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses have taken over national headlines recently. Clashes between protestors and counterprotestors, as well as law enforcement, are top of mind for political leaders. Have the student-led demonstrations shifted the focus away from the actual conflict on the ground in Gaza?

    When it comes to states enforcing Title IX, the Biden administration recently announced new guidelines, which include extending discrimination protections to groups who previously weren’t covered by the legislation, including LGBTQ students. Several Republican-led states have filed lawsuits claiming that the administration overstepped its authority and attempted to change how they define sex and gender.

    And this installment of the 50 states series looks at a rare phenomenon in Idaho politics that could empower the political middle.

    3 May 2024, 7:00 am
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