25 episodes

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

KCRW's Left, Right & Center KCRW

    • News

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

    Biden presidency turns 1 year old

    Biden presidency turns 1 year old

    President Biden took questions from reporters on Wednesday for nearly two hours — ranging widely from voting rights to Ukraine and more — as senators from his own party threatened his top legislative goals.

    The president says he’s outperformed expectations. His approval rating — a meager 40% or so — doesn’t seem to square with that. But can Biden be blamed for taking power during a historic pandemic? Or did he set himself up for failure by trying to strongarm moderate Democrats into a bill they already said they wouldn’t vote for? 

    Also, Biden says he expects Russia will invade Ukraine. Economic sanctions might work, but how can the U.S. and Europe — which is heavily reliant on Russia for energy — work together to curb Russia’s territorial aspirations? Guest host Jeremy Hobson brings on panelists Megan McArdle on the right and Jamelle Bouie on the left to discuss. 

    This week’s special guest is John Avlon, a political analyst at CNN and the author of a new book called “Lincoln and the Fight for Peace.” With Democrats’ voting agenda in peril and some on the left saying democracy is facing an existential fight, how does the present moment compare to other presidents in times of trouble? Our panelists break it down.

    Then — what are Republicans for? Biden asked that question at this week’s press conference and it may become a talking point during the 2022 midterm elections. How will Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis differentiate himself from Trump in the run up to the Republican primary? Which Republican nominee should Biden be more worried about?

    • 50 min
    The ‘I’ word: How we got here

    The ‘I’ word: How we got here

    If your grocery or gas bill weren’t enough of an indicator, inflation is here at historic levels. The consumer price index, which tracks how prices change over time, showed a 7% increase at the end of last year, which is the highest jump since 1982.

    The Biden administration says this too shall pass. But voters are feeling sticker shock and aren’t giving the president good marks on the economy despite a strong job market, a low unemployment rate, and rising wages.

    How did we get here? Are generous stimulus packages and tax credits to blame? Is there a way to move forward on spending bills with inflation in mind, and to get the sign-off of one Democratic senator from West Virginia? Guest host Jeremy Hobson brings on panelists Christine Emba and Alice Stewart to discuss.

    Next: Voting rights are big on Biden’s agenda. On the heels of the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Capitol riots, the president and Vice President Kamala Harris travelled to Atlanta to make their biggest push yet for voting rights.

    They’re encouraging Democrats to do away with the filibuster and get rid of the 60-vote threshold to pass a bill, all to pass comprehensive legislation to expand voting access to Americans. We bring on special guest and former congresswoman Jane Harman to discuss whether that’s a good idea, and whether it’s risky to excite Biden’s base if he can’t deliver.

    Also, high-level talks took place this week between Washington, NATO and Russia amid fears of another Russian invasion of Ukraine. Vladimir Putin’s troops are looming over Ukraine’s border, and he’s demanding that NATO withdraw all allied troops from countries that border Russia.

    That’s a key foreign policy test for President Biden, who’s had to deal with many a crisis abroad during his presidency between a trade war in China and an evacuation in Afghanistan. The million dollar question: What should the U.S. do if Putin invades Ukraine? Do economic sanctions even work? And if they don’t, what’s next for war-weary America?

    And finally, GOP consultant Alice Stewart explains what’s wrong with shopping carts, Washington Post columnist Christine Emba says [Joe] Manchin and [Kyrsten] Sinema aren’t really Democrats, and host Jeremy Hobson explains one way the pandemic could be depoliticized.

    • 50 min
    January 6 Anniversary

    January 6 Anniversary

    We kick off a new year of Left Right & Center as the country reflects on the one-year anniversary of the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. Guest host Jeremy Hobson talks with Jamelle Bouie, Alice Stewart and Amy Walter about how the battle for voting rights has changed since last year’s insurrection as well as policy approaches to the Omicron surge.

    Another massive Covid surge reminds us that the pandemic named for the year 2019 - is still kicking in 2022. Should President Biden be doing more to control Covid-19? What more can he do given that so many people aren’t getting vaccinated? Is it time for more carrots than sticks?

    A year ago, on January 6th, Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. Is the investigation into that attack moving fast enough? Why do so many Republicans believe President Trump when he tells them the election was stolen? Democrats hope the anniversary will spur on voting rights reform in Congress. Is there any chance it will pass?

    • 50 min
    Josh Barro says farewell to Left, Right & Center

    Josh Barro says farewell to Left, Right & Center

    Welcome to Josh Barro’s final episode as host of Left, Right & Center. It’s a special episode with some of our most frequent panelists to close out 2021 and Josh’s seven-year run as host.

    A lot has changed in the last seven years, and weirdly, a lot hasn’t. In this episode, you’ll hear clips from Josh’s first episode as host of Left, Right & Center in which he moderates a discussion of vaccine policy, mandates and vaccine skepticism. Can’t make this up! Back then, the issue was contentious but not hyper partisan. You’ll also hear Josh moderate a discussion about Donald Trump declaring his candidacy for president in 2015. It’s…a lot. LRC regulars Megan McArdle, Tim Carney, David Dayen and Keli Goff talk with Josh about how the Trump presidency and the pandemic have changed American politics and how the parties have changed, or failed to change, along with it. To mark this very transformative period for American politics and for Left, Right & Center too, Josh and the panelists make predictions about what the next seven years hold for us.

    • 50 min
    A special Left, Right & Center for the end of 2021

    A special Left, Right & Center for the end of 2021

    Well, it’s been a year: 2021 has been better than 2020 all told, but not as normal as hoped. It’s seemingly not as normal as the voters hoped it would be either, with President Biden’s approval ratings sliding from the summer on with inflation, resurgent covid cases, and a haphazard withdrawal from Afghanistan. So one year on, how is President Biden doing? And what can he do to right the ship before Democrats face voters next November?

    On this special episode of Left, Right & Center, frequent panelists LANHEE CHEN, CHRISTINE EMBA, and GUSTAVO ARELLANO join departing host JOSH BARRO to look backward and forward. The panel discusses the highlights and the discontents of this year, hopes for what the government will do differently (and what will go differently) in 2022, the pluses and minuses of this economy, and the tools, both old and new, that could bring the virus under enough control for things to be close enough to normal…if we do things right.

    • 50 min
    A wave is building

    A wave is building

    The holidays are coming and so is the omicron wave. Well, that’s not great timing. Booster shots will help, and so many people have some immunity already from two doses of vaccine and/or prior infection. But we don’t have all the tools we might like to protect ourselves against a great deal of sickness and possible death. Josh Barro, Ross Douthat and Elizabeth Bruenig talk about living with the threat of illness and the different reactions at the extremes from right and left.

    Then: Democrats’ spending plans have stalled and Senate Democrats are now saying they’re turning to voting rights, another legislative priority that’s also stalled. Are they just done with legislating for the year? Ross Douthat wrote a column this week on the New New Right: what they stand for, and whether voters will be attracted to their positions.

    • 50 min

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